"Healthy Forests" in Texas?

Larry Harrell lhfotoware at hotmail.com
Thu Apr 22 08:56:15 EST 2004


April 20, 2004  The Courier

Environmental group bashes Bush's forest law

by Erika E. Durham

An environmental group claims President George W. Bush's Healthy
Forest law poses a severe environmental threat to the Sam Houston
National Forest.

In a report released Monday, the Houston chapter of the Sierra Club,
one of the nation's largest environmental groups, spoke against the
new law, which reduces the red tape U.S. Forestry officials face when
they deem it necessary to cut down trees.

The law, signed by Bush in December, promises to protect more trees
from forest fires and insect destruction.
Heavier wooded forests, such as the 163,000 acres that comprise Sam
Houston National Forest located in Montgomery County, are a magnet for
pine beetles that destroy trees by the groves and create fuel for
fires, Bush and local loggers say.

"The bill expedites the environmental review process so we can move
forward more quickly on projects that restore forests to good health.
We don't want our intentions bogged down by regulations. We want to
get moving. When we see a problem, this government needs to be able to
move," Bush said in a speech regarding the initiative in December.

Bush also stated that since his initiative was launched in 2002,
almost 5 million acres of overgrown forest and rangeland have been
restored.

Environmentalists disagree.

"The president's plan uses words like "restoration and thinning," said
Chris Wilhite of the Sierra Club. "But we have seen a lot of the
thinning projects, and they are cutting down the larger fire-resistant
trees.
"We feel the forest should be kept natural, which means to clear some
of the smaller pine trees instead."

Sierra Club officials also argue that the new law threatens the Lone
Star Hiking Trail in the forest, the longest continuous trail in
Texas.
"If they really are concerned about forest fires and public safety,
why aren't they generating that funding toward (removing trees) closer
to buildings," Wilhite said. "Why are they going deep into the
forest?"

Local loggers P.L. and Shellie Hibbard of P.L. Hibbard Logging in
Conroe say environmentalists need a better understanding of the law
and logging.
"This (law) gives the forest service the power to shove the
environmentalist to the side and get done what needs to be." P.L.
Hibbard said.
"When we drive by the National Forest, I just think to myself, 'I wish
they would let someone thin that'," she said. "It would look so much
better and healthier."

The Hibbards said it is more beneficial to everyone to clear a few
trees rather than have insects destroy an entire forest.

Comment by poster: Again, I see that the "preservationist groups" fear
that National Forests will be mercilessly plundered because of new
rules that cut through the red tape. Bush has been in office for over
3 years now, with a Republican Congress, too. How come we're not
seeing huge new clearcuts? How come we're not seeing massive 3-log
loads on log trucks? How come we're not clear-cutting the Roadless
Areas (like another eco-group accused the USFS of doing)?

Personally, I have plenty of criticism for the Bush Administration
regarding forest management. Forget the stealth tactics, "spin" and
smokescreens. Let the science come through in court and educate
America about site-specific "treatments" that are needed to restore
America's forests.

Larry,    a true environmentalist



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