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FIRE AND LOGGING: SPINNING ALONG

The fire and logging debate, if it can be called that, continues its spin (see The LYNX, 8/02). Around and around go the efforts of far too many Western congressmen, the Bush administration and the Forest Service, all trying to blame the fires of the past years on conservationists who have questioned the ecological value of Forest Service timber harvesting.

Trying desperately to find a connection between ecological based management, which conservationists have advocated for decades, and forest fires (of course, no such connection can be made-- fires are a result of a distinctly unecological based management and a growing, deepening drought), they have resorted to legislative efforts which in one way or another propose to increase timber harvesting and inoculate those actions from public input, appeals and, in some cases, even altering legal challenges. That alone should tell us the issue is not to control wildfires, but to get out from under the scrutiny of the world's most meaningful environmental laws! The Chief of the Forest Service has even resorted to a simple little name game, analysis paralysis, suggesting the Forest Service spends too much time doing environmental reviews only to have about half of them overturned by Forest Service appeals, something he conveniently ignores, or held up in court room processes. In other words, the issue is not really one of paralysis, but of all too often ecologically deficient reviews.

At the time of this writing the House Resources Committee passed on to the full House a logging bill that absurdly and dramatically shortens the appeal and litigation processes, does not require the Forest Service to look at alternatives in the environmental analysis process, and allows public comment on the scoping process but not the actual proposal!

But there is another issue here if one wants to talk about analysis paralysis. Most wildernesses on the Wasatch National Forest still have no wilderness management plan-- only 18 years behind their designation! The High Uintas Wilderness Management Plan, signed in 1996, still has no monitoring plan which was required by the management plan! Most travel plans on both forests are approaching or are over a decade old! The Evanston/ Mt. View Travel Plan has been in the works, in one fashion or another, for almost a decade and still has not been finalized. The West Fork Blacks Fork sheep grazing EIS has been written, rewritten, released, pulled back and now proposed again, all starting in early 1998! Do we need to go on?

The hypocrisy is deep and profound and the lack of trust understandable!

Dick Carter


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