Subject: SW BIODIVERSITY ALERT
SOUTHWEST BIODIVERSITY ALERT #62
SOUTHWEST CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
silver city, tucson, phoenix, san diego
NEW YORK TIMES OPED SUPPORTS ENVIRO PLAN TO BUY NATIONAL FOREST
Let Ecologists Buy Federal Timber
By MARK MURO, March 29, 1997
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Vice President Al Gore recently declared market
economies "a prerequisite for saving the global environment." Now the
Clinton Administration has a chance to follow through by allowing
environmental groups to buy Federal timber. Instead of logging the
trees, conservationists would leave them standing.
The United States Forest Service -- custodian of 191 million acres of
American forests -- currently lets only logging companies bid in
auctions of Federal timber. This policy not only excludes potentially
less destructive uses of public forests, it also generates less
revenue than if others were permitted to bid.
That is because for years the Forest Service has subsidized logging
companies by selling timber at below-market prices and by building
roads to enable these companies to cut the trees. In 1995 alone, the
Forest Service lost $195 million selling underpriced trees to the
timber industry, according to the Wilderness Society.
Last year, the Forest Service turned down the Northwest Ecosystem
Alliance's winning $28,875 bid on 275 acres of fire-scarred trees in
the Okanogan National Forest in Washington State, solely because the
group refused to log the trees. Instead, the Forest Service awarded
the timber to the second-highest bidder and then built a costly
two-mile road into the property so that logging could proceed.
Now three environmental groups -- the Northwest Ecosystem Alliance,
along with Tucson's Southwest Center for Biological Diversity and the
Oregon Natural Resources Council -- want to change the way the Forest
Service does business. Last month they filed a formal petition with
the Agriculture Secretary, who oversees the Forest Service, asking
that the highest bid be accepted for most Federal timber "regardless
of whether that bidder has any intention of harvesting" the trees.
Under the Government's own policy calling for multiple uses of public
land -- including for recreation and wildlife habitat -- parties
other than timber companies also have a right to the national
forests. But allowing environmentalists to pursue "unlogging" is not
only a matter of fairness. It would reserve new areas for wildlife and
This change would bring to Federal land a free-market approach that
has already worked at the state level. For example, last fall New
Mexico awarded grazing rights to 550 acres along the cattle-damaged
Rio Puerco to two local environmental groups, which outbid local
ranchers. It was the first time such a contract had gone to
non-ranchers, and now the conservation groups are kicking the cattle
out and restoring the riverbanks.
If environmentalists offer higher bids than logging companies for
timber, budget hawks in Congress, as well as people who want to save
trees, should be pleased.
Fishing clubs, bird watchers and mushroom farmers might also turn up
to put their money down. Why should the Government turn away serious
bidders just because they want to preserve, not damage, our public
Mark Muro is an editorial writer for The Arizona Daily Star.
Kieran Suckling firstname.lastname@example.org
Executive Director phone: 520-733-1391
Southwest Center for Biological Diversity fax: 520-733-1404
POB 17839, Tucson, AZ 85731 http://www.envirolink.org/orgs/sw-center