Activists not soothed by suspension of logging law
December 31, 1996
Web posted at: 5:30 p.m. EST
From CNN Correspondent Rusty Dornin
EUGENE, Oregon (CNN) -- The chain saws may have fallen silent in the federal forests of Oregon, but the timber war rages on.
Last year Congress passed a short-term timber measure known as the salvage logging law. It allowed timber companies to harvest -- without environmental review -- trees on federal land that had been destroyed by fire or insects. It also permitted loggers to bring down some pristine old growth.
Environmentalists cried foul when President Clinton signed the law, fearing loggers would use the law to harvest healthy trees.
Indeed, a federal study found that good trees were going down with the bad. So the White House cancelled the law two weeks ago, before it was due to expire at the end of 1996.
Few of those originally opposed to the law were cheered by the news.
"It was way too little, way too late and affected nothing," said environmentalist Ken Carlone.
Activists protesting the law claim several billion board-feet of timber -- including healthy trees -- were logged without being subject to environmental laws. It takes about 10,000 board-feet to build an average-size house.
But those in the timber industry, like mill owner Howard Sohn, say environmentalists are exaggerating.
"There was not a lot of volume, not a lot of acreage," he said.
Salvage logging, according to some, reduces fire risks.
"We've got a real overgrown forest right now and the forest is really suffering. One of the things we need to do is get rid of some of the more tolerant species," said Steve Trusedale of the Oregon Department of Forestry
Timber company representatives say healthy trees sometimes need to be cut to control the spread of insects.
But activists say the insects are just an excuse to clear healthy trees, including stands of old growth timber sites.
Carlone, standing near an area that was opened to logging, said, "There was not a thing wrong with this forest. The trees were healthy. The site was healthy. There was nothing wrong with this stand."
In Yellow Creek, Oregon 300-year old Douglas firs have been removed from a hillside. The trees had been marked for sale in the late 1980s, but federal court rulings regarding the Endangered Species Act stopped all logging in Yellow Creek, supposedly for good. Then, under the salvage logging law, they were put back on the chopping block.
Environmentalists claim their concerns were ignored.
"Our current laws require that we leave some trees along streams, for instance, and none of these (logged sites) had trees (left standing) along streams," said environmentalist Francis Eatherington.
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