Environmentalists are bracing for stepped-up efforts by a re-elected Bush administration to dramatically increase logging of old-growth trees and other forestlands in the Pacific Northwest over the next four years.
“It’s going to be harder and harder for us to get the message out that these forests are important
for many reasons, but we’re going to work harder than ever,” said Susan Ash of the Audubon Society of Portland. Local advocacy groups are marshalling legal, political and activist resources to prevent logging on still-pristine federal lands in the region, but they face an uphill battle.
In lobbying the White House to ease logging restrictions in wildlife-friendly and fire-prone public lands in Washington and Oregon, timber industry representatives cite concerns that federally mandated forestry reform initiatives launched by the Clinton administration are inadequate to meet the economic and safety needs of local communities today.
Analysts expect the Bush administration to institute several changes to the way the federal government manages Pacific Northwest forests, including the elimination of some “multiple-use” protections—whereby recreation and hunting, for instance, compete with resource extraction as viable land uses—in forests suitable for large timber harvests. Additionally, the White House is likely to roll back logging restrictions in areas thought to be key habitat for endangered species such as the northern spotted owl and the marbled murrelet. Administration officials have also hinted that they will work to reshape the U.S. Forest Service into a smaller agency more focused on specific goals such as thinning forests to stave off forest fires.