Timber's Errand Boy: Industry Proposes, Larry Craig Disposes

Article excerpt

Those who thought the abuse of the nation's public forests could not get worse after 1995's disastrous "Logging Without Laws" salvage timber rider have not yet met the 105th Congress. This time the salvage rider's most unabashed booster, Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho), is back with a new proposal that would elevate logging above any other use of the national forests--above recreation, above water quality, above wildlife habitat. The salvage rider did that temporarily; Craig's new effort, a wholesale revision of the 1976 National Forest Management Act, would do so permanently.

Idaho's Lewiston Tribune once labeled Craig "timber's errand boy." As chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Forest Subcommittee, he is certainly in a position to do industry's bidding. And, in fact, his initial proposal reads like a timber industry wish list--hardly surprising, given that it is virtually identical to a set of recommendations made last year by lobbyists from the American Forest and Paper Association. (Accurate transmission of Big Lumber's desires was guaranteed by the fact that Craig's subcommittee staff director, Mark Rey, is the former executive director of the AF&PA.)

So what does the timber industry dream about at night? Here are some of the provisions of Craig's bill:

* Timber harvests and other natural resource "outputs" from the national forests would become mandatory and enforceable. At the same time, environmental standards would be demoted to mere "policies" and thus be unenforceable.

* The U.S. Forest Service could impose fines of up to $10,000 on those it deemed to have filed appeals to halt timber sales for an (undefined) "improper purpose."

* Once adopted, forest plans (and individual projects like timber sales) could not be stopped in court, no matter how much damage they could do. …