Environmentalists watching the U.S. Senate approval of salvage timber cutting warn recreationists will be pushed out of the forest by logging trucks.
Timber-industry representatives, though, said Thursday’s approval of an amendment by Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., would allow them to remove trees from fire areas before they decay and lose their value.
“People who want to stop the harvests know that if they just tie up the Forest Service, they can get to a point where the trees are no longer worth harvesting,” said Jim Riley, executive vice president of the Intermountain Forest Industry Association.
It allows the Forest Service to release salvage-logging plans without full environmental-impact statements. It also prohibits opponents from filing administrative appeals.
John McCarthy of the Idaho Conservation League said the measure would lead to the destruction of five areas in the Boise and Payette national forests his group hopes to have classified as protected wilderness.
“They’ll be able to fire up the chain saws the minute this gets signed,” he said. “In both the Boise and Payette you’ll be able to count on logging trucks every five minutes. That won’t leave much room for boaters, hikers, hunters and anglers.”
Don Smith, Idaho director of the Alliance for Wild Rockies, said the measure will spark a rush to remove huge amounts of timber. “The massive level of logging will burn up jobs in a short periods. This is not sustainable forestry.”
Boise National Forest spokesman Frank Carroll said that even if the measure becomes law, the Forest Service will still manage its land responsibly.
“The process is so slow that economic value is wasting while people quibble over things,” Carroll said. “If this goes forward, the process may speed up, but that doesn’t mean analysis will end, careful planning will end. It’s not time to sound the alarm.”
A final vote on the comprehensive budget bill containing Gorton’s amendment is needed for passage.