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Inside Politics

Environment meets politics amid firs

By CNN's Richard Quest

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Timber prices are at the highest level in more than a decade.
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In the Pacific Northwest, the environment is a major political player. CNN's Richard Quest reports.
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PACIFIC NORTHWEST, United States (CNN) -- In a Washington state forest, a great Douglas fir falls as loggers keep up with growing demand.

Cutting down trees here is not something that makes those involved very popular.

"You have got to have really thick skin to be a logger because of all the people who don't like you doing it," says logger Frank Caine.

Dick Hammer sees nothing wrong in cutting down these trees. He's vice president of the A.L.R.T. Corporation, a timber, logging, road and trucking company in Washington state.

"It doesn't cause me any pain to cut down a tree because I know when I cut down a tree I am going to plant a number of trees to take its place," Hammer says.

Here they believe they know which political party will protect their industry and their jobs.

"I am leaning towards the Republican Party because of the general platform that they stand on," Hammer told CNN.

"You would say that, you are a logger," I told him.

"Absolutely, and I agree with that, I am bound to say that, but with what I know and what I see and what I read, I couldn't change my mind," he said.

In the Pacific Northwest, logging is just one environmental issue pitting Republicans against Democrats. Clean air, fresh water, overfishing -- there's a long list of concerns vital to this part of America.

So in Portland, Oregon, both George W. Bush and John Kerry are visiting on the same day to argue that the land is safe in their hands.

"Everyone says they are an environmentalist," notes Katy Daily of the Sierra Club.

"The environment is an issue in this election. Most of the time when you talk about the Bush administration's record, his failure to protect the environment is one of the top things that is mentioned."

Back in the forest, the work of clearing the logging site continues. There is also a realism about what happens when the environment meets politics.

Timber prices are at the highest level in more than a decade. And that fact, more than anything else, speaks volumes.

On this issue, it probably doesn't matter who is elected president -- because as long as people want to buy wood, there will be people to chop trees.


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