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New regulations, announced last week by the administration of George Bush, give managers of America's 155 national forests rights to approve the exploitation of the land they control - primarily logging and mining. In all, 58.5 million acres of forest are now vulnerable to commercial development. But the forestry proposal is just one prong in what is becoming a battle for the soul of the West - between environmental and business interests. (AFP photo)...






Take your children to the forest now, Bush just opened the National forests to commercial pillaging

It is criminal to me that George Bush is apathetic to preserving the future of America's national parks.  How he can allow the deforestation of forests that cannot be replaced is simply beyond my understanding.

But what is more, I cannot understand why there is not a public outrage at the fact that George Bush has reduced everything in the world to a price tag.  Everything that promotes business is promoted from cutting down our ancient forests to protecting the drug companies to drilling for oil in the Artic.

Everything that Teddy Roosevelt promoted regarding preserving our national lands for future generations, George Bush is against.  The national parks are overrun by tourists in the summer.  In fact, people have to be turned away.  And yet there is not public outcry about turning these beautiful parks into clear cut deserts.

It is just a matter of time, before every single park will have oil derricks on every square inch.  They will be easy to see, because the trees will all be gone.

John WorldPeace
December 8,  2002

Ancient timber tumbles in new battle over America's wild West

Ed Vulliamy in Forks, Washington state, reports from a forest land that could become a wilderness as George Bush backs the commercial pillagers

Sunday December 8, 2002
The Observer

Ray McMahon steadies his feet on the spongy soil of the forest bed and sends his saw screeching through the wood of a Douglas fir. It totters, creaks and crashes to earth slowly, the weight ripping its own trunk. 'It's a tree,' he said, 'it will grow back'.

This is land that borders US Highway 101, west of Seattle through the Olympic National Forest and down to a series of tiny, ancient, maritime Indian reservations; a wonderland of lakes, killer whales and forest.

The sky is pierced by snow-painted pines, their craggy trunks pre-dating the existence of the United States by centuries.

But now a new feature marks the landscape - the barren 'clear-cuts', where the trees have been felled. They appear like scars, slashed across what would otherwise be the most awesome landscape in America; wastelands gouged into what were once forest but are now huge stretches of castrated tree trunks and the debris of destruction.

They are a picture of the future as the lumber industry, after years of restraint by rules and protective regulations, is unleashed by new regulations, announced last week by the administration of George Bush, giving managers of America's 155 national forests rights to approve the exploitation of the land they control - primarily logging and mining.

At present, under numerous pieces of national and, in the Pacific North-West, regional legislation, managers of federal forest country are obliged to conduct thorough surveys on the environmental impact of any commercial activity. From now, that obligation is removed.

The author of the scheme is the Bush administration's forestry supremo, Mark Rey, former vice-president of the American Forest and Paper Association - co-ordinator of an industrial lobby which was among Bush's biggest contributors during his White House campaign of 2000, providing about $300,000.

The new rule, says Sally Collins, chief operating officer for the Forest Service, is intended to 'better harmonise the environmental, social and economic benefits of America's greatest natural resource, our forests and grasslands'.

But conservationist groups say the last of the 'old growth' forests now face destruction. 'It's just a case of "they get the trees and we get the stumps",' says Leeane Siart of the Oregon Natural Resource Council. 'What we are talking about here is saving the last bit of our native and old-growth forest'.

They also contest the promised social benefits; Mike Anderson of the Wilderness Society calls Bush's pledge to create 100,000 jobs through the changes 'complete fantasy'.

In all, 58.5 million acres of forest are now vulnerable to commercial development. But the forestry proposal is just one prong in what is becoming a battle for the soul of the West - between environmental and business interests - as the Bush administration sets about a counter-revolution to open up the wilderness to economic opportunity.

The most famous of these initiatives was a proposal to open tranches of Alaska to oil drilling, in accordance with the government's desire to boost energy production and, according to critics, as payback to the oil industry for its entwinement with the Bush administration and family.

Although the Alaska drilling was held up in the outgoing Senate, last month's Republican election victory has led Bush to demand a revisitation of his plan.

About half of all land in the 11 western states is federally owned and managed by the Department of the Interior, whose Gale Norton wants to open it up to the 'new environmentalism involving people who live on and work on the land'.

Norton was formerly committed to the abolition of the very agency she heads.

'We're being besieged,' says William Meadows, president of the Wilderness Society. 'There's damage everywhere you turn.'

There are few issues in American politics where the loathing between competing sides is as acrimonious as timber and logging. Along the cappuccino bars of Broadway in Seattle, the logging companies are regarded as 'rapists of the wilderness, the real Nazis, the most evil people that ever lived', as Stewart Bridges, a supporter of the Earth First group, calls them.

But the logging industry is among the few employers left in an area of rural slump, populated by maritime Indians and lumberjacks.

Among the employees (and ex-employees) of various logging companies who gather in the roadside bar at Forks, on the edge of the Olympic National Forest, the descriptions of students who put spikes in trees, injuring colleagues and threatening local jobs, are unrepeatable.

'What we need is a Puget Sound chainsaw massacre of fucking tree-huggers' is one of the more charitable sentiments - that of Earl Brown, who was laid off two years ago after 12 years as a logger.

It was to cut a compromise that President Bill Clinton came up with the North-West Forest Plan in 1994 to protect 'old-growth' forests from exploitation and also the future of the timber industry.

It was based on the decision by his predecessor, George Bush senior, to designate the spotted owl as an endangered species. Clinton's plan protected 80 per cent of 'old-growth' areas of mature trees where the owl lived, while guaranteeing the timber industry a harvest of one billion 'board feet' of wood per annum.

The timber industry was unhappy, managing to harvest only 145 million of its promised billion board feet, because of litigation and because most firms had by now moved away from handling larger logs, in response to the controls now being torn up. They campaigned for what they obtained last week.

'People have this conception', says Alyn Ford of the Roseburg Forest Products company, 'that we need to totally preserve anything that's a certain age. Preservation of old growth is not, in our way of thinking, a management concept. A forest is a living dynamic.'

Bush began his campaign to open up forests to development last summer, in the aftermath of a wave of fires. He entwined the need to thin forests for safety reasons with a promise to cut 'red tape, regulations and endless litigation' that hindered logging projects. November's mid-term elections, giving the Senate back to the Republicans, removed the last obstacle to the administration's ambitions.

'It'll be like playing hockey without a goalie for the next two years,' says Bill Arthur, head of the mainstream conservationist Sierra Club in the Pacific North-West, anticipating an 'aggressive assault' on the environment.

Bush's forestry rules essentially repeal the National Environmental Policy Act, passed under Richard Nixon in 1970. It required loggers and developers to report in detail the impact of any commercial enterprise and take measures to minimise them.

The head of the task force that devised the new rules, Horst Grecmiel, adds: 'We're out there to try and make it better. In common parlance, we want to cut out the fat and beef up the beef.'

To the green side this is a declaration of war on the last vestiges of 'old growth', a fraction of the ancient forests that once defined this region.

In Washington state, the Olympic National Forest and Gifford Pinchot National Forest, the mark of condemnation - a blue dash of paint across the bark of the old trees - is ubiquitous again.

The 'monkey-wrenchers' who spike and camp up trees are busy planning in the coffee bars of Seattle. 'They'll meet all the resistance we can throw at them,' promises Andrew Jozwick, a militant with Earth First. 'The trees will live.'

Washington state's Democrat representative, Jay Inslee, fights the cause of the forest against the White House.

'We're very worried,' he told demonstrators in Seattle, 'that the Iraq war is going to allow the President to do all this behind a kind of smoke-screen. The President does love trees: the problem is he loves 'em horizontal; we love them vertical.'


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