With the beat of the Tubbs Hill logging helicopter reverberating through the hotel wall behind her, Teddy Roosevelt’s granddaughter chastised Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig on Monday for plans to rewrite federal forest management laws.
“Almost 100 years ago, a very wise and farsighted president set aside 17 million acres of public land, which means it belongs to you and to me,” Edith Williams said of her grandfather, who was president from 1901 to 1909. “He set up the proper agencies to protect these lands.”
Since those days, however, the national forests have been under a logging assault that has increased flooding, ruined trout streams and erased species, she said.
“The great work that Teddy Roosevelt tried to do is being flagrantly and wantonly destroyed,” Williams said. “This ravage of our forests must be stopped.”
Williams, who lives in Western Washington, was speaking at The Coeur d’Alene Resort as part of a panel organized by the Inland Empire Public Lands Council. It was a preamble to today’s workshop at North Idaho College on Craig’s 100-page draft legislation, the fifth such workshop on the measure.
Later Monday, Mark Rey of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee spoke just as strongly about the need for Craig’s proposal and about the overwhelming support for the measure.
Craig held 15 hearings during the last session of Congress and found “no one was satisfied with the status quo management of federal forest lands,” Rey said. “By and large, the dissatisfaction was both profound and universal.”
The result is, “We are spending more money for less-satisfying results,” Rey said.
The legislation is a draft, Craig is open to making changes and there are several planned, Rey said. “This is a work in progress.” He declined to detail those changes, saying he wanted to wait to discuss those with Craig after today’s hearing.
Craig often has called the Forest Service a dysfunctional agency and says he is trying to streamline the appeals and planning process to return the agency to better days of efficient management.
If there is consensus that national forest management needs repair, there was little agreement in Coeur d’Alene on Monday about the method of repair.
Win Green, former supervisor of the Clearwater National Forest in Idaho and the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, also was at the Lands Council press conference. The Craig bill “is an idea whose time should not come, not now, not ever,” Green said.
He acknowledged some problems with the current laws, but fine tuning, not throwing out the current laws, is the solution, he said. What’s broken is the ability of people to accept forest plans and environmental safeguards that get in the way of harvest.
One key feature of the Craig proposal is allowing states to apply for the right to manage, and eventually take control, of federal lands. Each state would have to receive congressional approval.
States manage about the same amount of land as the Forest Service and BLM, for significantly less expense and for four times the fiscal return, said Rey, a former timber industry lobbyist. Simultaneously, their management is as sensitive to the environment as what’s done on federal forests, he said.
Critics couldn’t disagree more. Most state constitutions require that state lands be managed for maximum financial return.
“I think (Teddy Roosevelt) would be outraged,” Williams said. “He set those lands aside for everybody, they weren’t just for one state.”
Green sees the transfer to states as the first step in transferring the land to the timber companies. Meanwhile, “Craig just wants to flat exclude 99 percent of the American public from having a say in how their forests are managed and he wants to do that by giving them to the state,” Green said.
Other critics note that Idaho law prohibits timber-sale protests, which they see as the sort of limited public participation that would come if Idaho ran the national forests here.
But Rey and Norm Arsenault, a former national forest supervisor, note that the Craig proposal stipulates that federal environmental laws apply if states assume management. They also note that particular states could write entirely new laws to deal with managing federal forests in their borders.
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