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Great Lakes Article:

For Immediate Release
September 11
Contacts: Steve Holmer, 202-547-9105, Randi Spivak, 202-547-9029

REPORT CRITICIZES FEDS FOR LOGGING REMOTE FORESTS, LEAVING COMMUNITIES VULNERABLE TO WILDFIRES

Washington, D.C.—American Lands today accused the Bush Administration of preying on the public's fears about wildfires to promote industrial-strength logging projects. A report released by the group today, "Blowing Smoke: Industrial Logging Under the Guise of Fuels Reduction," details how the Forest Service has used fire as an excuse for more logging, why the Administration's proposal will only exacerbate the problem, and what steps can be taken to ensure communities are protected from wildfires.

The report also provides case studies of logging projects that were significantly improved through the public participation process the Administration seeks to abolish. The report can be found at http://www.americanlands.org/blowingsmoke.pdf “The President’s Healthy Forests Initiative will only increase fire risk,” said Randi Spivak, Executive Director for the American Lands Alliance. “Logging large, fire-resistant trees far from communities will not save homes and lives. The plan is nothing more than a gift to the timber industry and a platform for his real agenda, which is to keep citizens and the courts out of the process of managing our national forests.” The Senate is likely to vote this Thursday on an Interior Appropriations amendment sponsored by Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) that would suspend environmental laws and virtually eliminate public input for so-called “emergency” fuel reduction projects.

A similar bill introduced by Representative Scott McInnis (R-Colorado) is scheduled for mark-up this Thursday in the House Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health. . “Blowing Smoke” shows that most “fuel reduction” projects that are being challenged by citizens are commercial timber sales miles away from communities. Claims that these projects violated the law were often corroborated by internal reviews within the Forest Service and federal courts. Researchers at the Forest Service’s Fire Sciences Lab have found that in order to protect homes from wildfire and enhance firefighter safety, thinning must occur within a maximum of a ¼ mile of structures. Yet none of the 16 appealed projects highlighted in the report targeted for removal the highly flammable underbrush and small-diameter trees around homes for removal.

These fuel-reduction projects ranged from three miles to 90 miles away from the nearest communities. The report also provides examples of stewardship contracting pilot projects (most of these have been appealed) and how using “goods-for-services” authorities creates problems by giving away the big trees in the backcountry—the ones that have the highest monetary value—to pay for thinning underbrush and small-diameter trees of little commercial value. Some of the most egregious “fuel-reduction” projects include the following: · The Big Bar Post-Fire Salvage Logging Project on the Six Rivers National Forest in California would remove old growth and mature forest in an inventoried roadless area at least ten miles away from the nearest community. The 20-million board foot timber sale would harm imperiled species and impair water quality. In response to a citizens’ lawsuit, a federal court has ordered the Forest Service to withdraw the sale. ·

Iron Honey Restoration Project, a 27-million board foot-timber sale, would clearcut 1,919 acres of Douglas fir and hemlock forests in the high elevation headwaters of an already heavily clearcut watershed of the Little north fork of the Coeur d’Alene River that receives 50 inches a rain a year. The Forest Service denied a citizen appeal earlier this year that argued that logging will increase flooding transporting heavy metals from the flood plain of the Coeur d’Alene River to the Lake Coeur d’Alene and the Spokane River, impacting the water quality for the City of Spokane. · The Middle Black Project, a “goods for services” stewardship contracting pilot project on the Clearwater National Forest in Idaho would log 64-million-board-feet of timber, including extensive logging in the Pot Mountain Roadless Area. The project area is 30 miles from the nearest town. The Forest Service is expected to issue its final environmental impact statement in November. ·

The Mt. Wilson Urban Interface Project on Bureau of Land Management lands in Nevada would use 30-ton vehicles with tank treads to remove 35,000 acres of old growth pinyon-juniper forest in one of the most remote, and sparsely populated places in the Lower 48 States some 90 miles south of Ely, Nevada, and 20 miles from the Nevada-Utah border. The report also highlighted several examples of fuel-reduction projects in Idaho and Oregon that conservationists said were well designed and benefited from public input.

These four projects were near communities and were modified to accommodate concerns raised by independent scientists and citizens, such as the Ashland Watershed Project. In addition, the report found that projects that actually were aimed at protecting communities from fire went largely unchallenged by citizens.

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