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The Planet

Task Force Advances 'No-Cut'

The Planet, June 1997, Volume 4, number 5

by Marie Dolcini

Since President Clinton signed the salvage rider in 1995, the most anti- environmental piece of legislation penned by the 104th Congress, timber companies have cut more than 3 billion additional board feet of timber in national forests. As unfortunate as the rider's consequences have been, however, they have helped focus public outrage over the Forest Service's long tradition of putting timber profits before habitat and recreation considerations.

Last year, Sierra Club members overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative making it Club policy to halt all commercial logging on federal public lands (see June 1996 Planet). This summer, Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) will sponsor legislation to meet that goal, says No Commercial Logging Task Force Chair Chad Hanson.

"There's no accountability at the Forest Service. We can't trust them to conduct timber sales anymore," says Hanson, who was elected to the Club's Board of Directors in April. "We're pushing no-cut legislation to remove the financial incentive to deforest public lands."

Currently the Forest Service spends $1 billion a year to carry out its logging program. But according to the agency's own calculations, the timber cut annually on national forests (much of this coming from its last ancient stands) makes up only 3.9 percent of the United States' total yearly wood consumption.

While pressuring the Forest Service to be more accountable -- slashing its roadbuilding budget, abolishing agency slush funds and putting an end to money- losing timber sales -- is an immediate goal, task force volunteers say a halt to commercial logging on federal forests is the ultimate solution. Implementing the Club's policy would save taxpayers billions of dollars over the next decade, says Hanson, and those savings could be directed toward timber-worker retraining, ecological restoration and reduction of the federal deficit.

The Club's Forest Reform Campaign Steering Committee is busy plugging the no-cut policy into the Club's public education campaign by demonstrating its economic and environmental advantages and underscoring the poor state of forest management. Forest advocates say the next step is to broaden the coalition by reaching out to small woodlot owners, who stand to benefit if publicly subsidized timber is removed from the market.

"Almost every -- if not every -- national forest is operating at a net loss to taxpayers," says Hanson. "The no-cut campaign protects national forests and will assist local communities in transition. It's the wealthy timber executives who'll be cut out of the picture."

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