Scientists Hoping to Find Allies in D.C. to Slow Logging

By Tom Bacon

Environmental scientists are beginning to push back hard against rising clamor in Congress to quickly log fire-scorched forests, and against building pressure for the federal government to turn over more control of federal forests to western states.

More than 200 biologists, ecologists and other specialists are urging the U-S Senate to defeat a bill written and pushed by Washington GOP congressman Doc Hastings to speed up logging in burned forest areas, to set aside environmental laws and to smother court challenges of logging. The experts say that contrary to claims of increased revenue and more jobs written into the Hastings bill, there's growing scientific consensus that the burned landscapes play a critical role in forest regeneration.

In a letter sent to members of Congress last week, dozens of scientists said - quoting - post-fire habitat created by fire, including patches of severe fire, are ecological treasures rather than ecological catastrophes, and post-fire logging does far more harm than good to the nation's public lands. Hastings bill cited more than 9 million acres burned by wildfire last year, while the U-S Forest Service harvested timber from only about 200-thousand acres.

His measure would force the federal government to log on some forest lands, speed up timber sales and squelch court challenges. It would turn over control of portions of federal forest lands to states and counties. But the ecological scientists warned politicians that salvage logging is worse than fire itself, because it sets back recovery that begins the minute the fire is out.

The Hastings bill is pending in a Senate committee chaired by Ron Wyden of Oregon. The White House has warned that it'll veto the measure if it makes it through the Senate.
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