In a scenario that has become much too familiar, the Bush administration has rewritten a regional forest plan to permit more logging of old-growth forests, less protection for endangered species, and reduced protection for water quality.

On Mar. 23, The U.S. Forest Service and the federal Bureau of Land Management announced amendments to the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan.

The amendments were handed down in two records of decision. One removed the Survey and Manage guidelines from the plan, which had required surveys of wildlife and plant species before logging could proceed. The other made changes to the Aquatic Conservation Strategy, which required protection of salmon habitat and drinking-water quality.

The changes by the Forest Service and BLM reduce the level of protection for salmon habitat and water quality and allow more logging in old-growth reserves. The changes also eliminate the plan’s requirements to gather biological and ecological data to support habitat protection.

The Northwest Forest Plan covers 24.5 million acres of national forests in Oregon, Washington, and Northern California. In Northern California the Klamath, Mendocino, Shasta-Trinity and Six Rivers national forests, and parts of Modoc and Lassen national forests fall under the plan’s provisions. Together the forests cover more than 4.5 million acres in California.

The Northwest Forest Plan was developed in 1993 to strike a balance between the timber industry’s desire to log old-growth and the public’s desire to see old-growth forests protected. The plan was also prompted by lawsuits enforcing federal protections for the listed Northern spotted owl.

The original Northwest Forest Plan had no limits on the size of trees that could be cut. With the Survey and Manage protections now eliminated, it will be much easier for timber companies to cut down old-growth forest. There are already 150 timber sales drawn up for the forests covered by the plan.
The agencies’ changes to the plan are being touted as necessary to protect against wildfire. Also cited were the adverse effects of the plan on local timber harvest volume.

Regional mills, however, have retooled to handle smaller trees in the ten years since the original plan was written, says Christine Ambrose in an email alert from the American Lands Alliance. The plantations of young trees growing on former clearcuts can be handled by these mills. Logging the smaller trees would also reduce fire danger more than logging the larger, fire-resistant trees in old-growth forests, Ambrose says.

There is no sound reason, economic or scientific, to increase logging in old-growth forests.


Call U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Napa Valley) THIS WEEK and tell them to stand up to the Bush administration’s attempts to weaken the Northwest Forest Plan’s protection for old-growth forests and wildlife. Ask to speak to the legislative assistant who works on forest issues.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein:
(202) 224-3841
Legislative Assistant: John Watts

Rep. Mike Thompson:
(202) 225-3311
Legislative Assistant: Jonathan Birdsong

Or call the Capitol Switchboard toll-free: (800) 839-5276

o All old-growth and mature forests on federal lands should be protected against logging.
o Rules and procedures that protect salmon habitat and drinking-water quality should be kept in place.
o Neither fire protection nor the local economy requires the logging of old-growth forests.
o Removal of large, old trees has been shown to increase fire danger.
o Please remove the Forest Service and BLM amendments to the Northwest Forest Plan.


Forests Forever:
Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection
John J. Berger

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places