It's the Environment, Stupid.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Wheeling and dealing with the timber industry

The Seattle PI reports that the federal government has signed off on "habitat conservation" legislation for Washington state.

"The pact requires timber companies to fix forest roads that disgorge sand and muck in the rain, clouding streams. They also must leave larger buffers of trees alongside some streams important to salmon. And they must fix places where roads cross over streams so that long-blocked-off salmon spawning habitat is reopened.

In exchange, the federal government promised not to prosecute timber companies that are in compliance with the rules the state Forest Practices Board adopted to put the deal into effect. This approval doesn't prevent environmentalists from going to court to enforce the Endangered Species Act, but it makes proving a violation much more difficult....

[Terry Wililams, Tulalip tribal official] compared the deal to the federal government giving the timber industry 'a 50-year get-out-of-jail-free card, without taking all the impacts into consideration.'

Two reviews by panels of scientists -- one by the state, the other by two professional science societies -- also faulted the plan, with one calling the pact "ill-informed." Twenty-eight independent scientists also wrote to then-Gov. Gary Locke that as far as saving salmon go, the plan had 'a low probability of achieving its goals.'"

The rationale, the article goes on to say, is that going easy on timber land owners will deter the selling of land to developers, and developing the land is worse than cutting down forests.

Leaving a buffer of trees near streams doesn't seem to me to be an effective way of conserving habitat. Habitats involve ecosystems which will be disturbed and altered by large scale removal of forest land. The legislation is geared to save salmon, but it really seems like it's geared to save timber companies. If we want to protect timber companies, and the ecosystems needed for trees and salmon, we should mandate sustainable harvesting for the timber industry.


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