President Clinton said he vetoed his first bill Wednesday partly because it included a “very bad environmental provision” that exempted some nationalforest logging from laws protecting fish and wildlife.
“Nobody’s worked any harder than I have to start logging again in our country’s forests in an appropriate way. Suspending all of the environmental laws of the country for three years is not the appropriate way,” Clinton said. The logging provision was an amendment to the vetoed bill, which called for $16.4 billion in spending cuts for education and other social programs.
Conservationists, many of whom have criticized Clinton for failing to take a tougher stand on the environment, praised the veto.
“This is a great day for the American people and a bad day for the big timber companies that profit from environmental destruction,” said Robbie Cox, president of the Sierra Club.
On the other side, Republican lawmakers and timber industry leaders denounced Clinton’s decision.
“Destructive wildfires will now pose a renewed threat to our forests, forest workers won’t have jobs and a once valuable resource will lie rotting on the ground - all in the mistaken belief that emergency harvesting measures threaten the environment,” said W. Henson Moore, president of the American Forest & Paper Association.
The logging proposal, sponsored in the Senate by Washington Republican Slade Gorton, would have exempted salvage logging of dead and dying timber on national forests from environmental laws. It was billed as an effort to reduce the threat of catastrophic fires.
The measure called for doubling the amount of burned and diseased federal trees available for harvest, and the bulk would have come from the Pacific Northwest.
The provision also would have insulated from lawsuits all the logging outlined in Clinton’s Northwest forest plan. “This is an emergency situation and this administration is not responding accordingly,” Gorton said Wednesday.
Rep. George Nethercutt said Clinton “has turned his back on the people of the Pacific Northwest by costing our communities the estimated thousands of jobs which would have been created by passing this legislation.”
Gorton said the measure would generate $84 million in federal profits from timber sales and would not cost taxpayers money.
Environmentalists say the net result would be a loss to taxpayers, that salvage-timber sales rarely are profitable.
Fishing groups also opposed the proposal, saying erosion from the accelerated logging would clog streams that are key habitat for threatened salmon species.