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US government study says Bush administration, not lawsuits, to blame for logging losses

US government study says Bush administration, not lawsuits, to blame for logging losses

A government study blamed the Bush administration, not lawsuits by environmentalists, for adding to the cost of a logging project in which the government spent $11 million (euro8.7 million) to salvage less than $9 million (euro7.1 million) in timber from a wildfire.
The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said the administration's decision to dramatically increase logging, coupled with the size of the fire and the complexity of environmental laws, led to delays.
The so-called "Biscuit fire" burned almost 500,000 acres (200,000 hectares) in Oregon and California in 2002, making it largest wildfire in the continental United States since 1997.
The Bush administration and its Republican allies contended that lawsuits filed by environmentalists led to the increased costs.
Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, who directs U.S. forest policy, said the report released Wednesday demonstrated the need for a new law sponsored by Congressman Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican, to speed up logging of burned forests and tree planting after storms and wildfires.
"The pattern of litigation-related delays associated with this project bears poignant witness to the need for congressional action on Greg Walden's post-catastrophic restoration bill, as the president called for in Los Angeles," Rey said.
The bill would order that federal forests hit by disasters larger than 1,000 acres (400 hectares) be restored within months, rather than years, before insects and rot set in, diminishing the commercial value of fire-killed timber.
President George W. Bush urged Congress to pass the bill during a visit Tuesday to Southern California, where a giant wildfire about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles was extinguished after nearly a month.
"I believe Congress needs to pass further law that will enable us to restore forests once they've been burned," Bush said.
In an interview, Rey said techniques authorized by the bill could have allowed officials to begin work on the Biscuit project years earlier, "and diminished timber values could have been avoided."
Environmental groups and most Democrats oppose the salvage-logging bill, arguing that cutting large old trees and planting new ones makes forests more vulnerable to new fires and less valuable as habitat for fish and wildlife. They say it is better to allow forests to come back on their own.
Senator Jeff Bingaman, ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the GAO report demonstrated that the Bush administration overreached in its efforts to log large areas burned by the Biscuit fire.
"Taxpayers are going to have to spend millions more just cleaning up the damage from the logging than the government made from the timber sales," Bingaman said. "At the same time, promises of community fire protection, habitat restoration and scientific analyses remain unscheduled and unfulfilled."
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On the Net:
http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06967.pdf
http://thomas.loc.gov


Updated : 2021-06-17 17:57 GMT+08:00