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The Planet

November 1997, Volume 4, number 9

"Local Control' a Smokescreen for Logging

by Delbert Williams This perspective on the Quincy Library Group is offered by Delbert Williams, a Sierra Club member and fourth-generation resident of Plumas County, California.

"Local control" may sound eco-friendly, but the Quincy Library Group in Northern California proved that "local" is a matter of definition, and that, at least in this case, "control" is maintained by anti-environmental forces hiding behind the smokescreen of a green process. The result: a dangerous national precedent.

The town of Quincy is in the timber country of the Sierra Nevada range. The Quincy Library Group was formed in 1993 ostensibly because conflicts between environmentalists, government agencies and timber interests were hindering progress on forest-management issues. The group, which met in the mill town's public library so participants couldn't yell at each other, has been portrayed as a balanced approach for resolution of public-lands management.

In fact, while the few environmentalists involved in the process fit the bill for being local, timber interests were overrepresented and defied true "local" identity. Three of the 22 described as core members of the group work for Sierra Pacific Industries, which, as the largest private-property owner in California, controls timberlands far from the Quincy area. Also represented were Portland, Ore.-based Collins Pine Co. and nationally active Women in Timber. Conspicuously absent was any regional representation from a nationally recognized (and powerful) green organization like the Sierra Club or The Wilderness Society.

Out of this came the Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery and Economic Stability Act of 1997, or H.R. 858, introduced by Rep. Wally Herger (R-Calif.). It orders the U.S. secretary of agriculture to conduct a five-year "pilot project" on three national forests in the Sierra. In the name of reduced fire risks and forest health it will log quarter-mile-wide swaths as fire breaks, effectively doubling the timber-cut volume on the Lassen, Plumas and Tahoe national forests, which already shoulder some of the highest timber-cut levels in the nation.

Herger's bill represents one of the greatest threats to public lands since the Reagan administration and the salvage-logging rider of 1995. Most alarming is the precedent being set for phony local control, which allows timber interests to stack what is supposed to be a balanced roundtable. Already the idea is being heralded as the model solution to any public-lands controversy. More than just another isolated timber-harvest plan, this is an idea that threatens to subvert management decisions nationwide because it is being championed as the wave of the future. Actually, it rides a wave into the past.

In 1995, the anti-environment 104th Congress outraged many Americans. Lawmakers ran for cover -- green cover. Where are they today? Herger's bill has thus far provided cover not only for him during the 105th Congress, but for some of the most rabid anti-environment lawmakers in U.S. history.

H.R. 858 -- the first legislative incarnation of the Quincy Library Group's plan, introduced by Rep. Wally Herger (R-Calif.) -- easily passed in the House. A similar bill, Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) S. 1028, is pending in the Senate. A Senate committee vote was expected when this issue of The Planet went to press; the next action will be a floor vote by the Senate. Contact your senators and urge them to vote against this dangerous and misguided legislation.

To check the status of other environmental bills pending in the 105th Congress, see Different Image, Same Laws.

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