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Timber Retraining, Fish Money Survive Senate Panel Moratorium On Offshore Oil, Gas Drilling Would Be Continued


The government would continue to spend millions of dollars retraining timber workers in the Pacific Northwest, but the Clinton administration would have to provide a better accounting of the program under a bill a Senate panel approved Wednesday.

The spending measure also would restore some money the House cut for ecosystem studies in Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington, and spend more than President Clinton recommended for national forest management.

It follows the House lead in prohibiting any new listings of threatened or endangered species through Sept. 30, 1996, but would add $2 million the House had deleted to help troubled fish and wildlife.

It would continue a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf.

“There is no public support for lifting the moratorium. We would risk too much by doing so,” said Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the interior.

For the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, the subcommittee retained this year’s spending level for retraining programs for Northwest timber workers.But it also would require the administration to prepare a report with a “careful accounting of each appropriated dollar” no later than March 31, 1996.

The bill also calls for a $5 million increase in spending to build logging roads, to $102 million, to help the Forest Service meet a logging target of 2.6 billion board feet on national forests nationwide.

That’s about a 4 percent logging increase from the current year and about 18 percent more than the 2.2 billion board feet Clinton recommended. Logging levels on national forests totaled more than 10 billion board feet annually during much of the 1980s.

The subcommittee figure refers to live, “green” timber sales and does not include salvage logging of dead and dying timber, expected to provide an additional 1.5 billion board feet or more.

The bill doesn’t specify logging levels by region, although harvests in Oregon and Washington are expected to approach 1 billion board feet next year.

The subcommittee would fund overall forest land management for the Forest Service at $240 million, $26 million more than Clinton requested.

The panel also included $1.6 million for the Forest Service to complete an environmental impact statement for the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project, intended to build on strategies to protect troubled fish species in Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington.

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