Terms of Timber Cease-Fire Proposed : Preservationists Seek Smaller Harvest, Modify Some Demands
Smaller harvests, stronger guarantees and cautious study were set by preservationists Friday as the conditions under which they would agree to a temporary cease-fire in the fight over Pacific Northwest timber harvests.
Initial reaction from Congress was tentative disappointment. But the Oregon congressional delegation pledged to try to salvage efforts it began with Oregon Gov. Neil E. Goldschmidt to protect the timber industry from widespread mill closures and layoffs.
Industry groups, such as the American Forest Council and Northwest Forestry Assn., declined to comment on the preservationists’ proposal until they have had a chance to study it more closely.
Many timber sales have been blocked by court orders sought by preservationists to protect the northern spotted owl from extinction. A severe industry recession has been forecast for later this year by timber companies who say there are not enough saw logs to run their mills.
To avert that problem, a compromise must be worked out between industry and preservationists by next week, when the Senate Interior Affairs Committee will mark up its portion of the 1990 budget bill.
Would Alter Opposition
Preservationists said that, in exchange for several industry guarantees, they would modify or withdraw enough anti-logging injunctions to permit harvests of 9.6 billion board-feet of timber in Oregon and Washington for 15 months.
The harvest level suggested by preservationists is less than the 10 billion board-feet in a compromise fashioned in July by the Oregon delegation and Goldschmidt. Timber industry officials had grudgingly accepted that level.
Rachel Gorlin, an aide to Rep. Les AuCoin (D-Ore.), said the 400 million board-feet difference is enough to keep four large mills running for a year. A board-foot is an industry measure of lumber one foot square and one inch thick.
Gorlin said she did not know if the industry would accept the additional reduction in cutting, but environmentalists seemed firm in their resolve to keep the reduction.
“It’s still too high, but it is something we can live with in the 15-month cooling-off period,” said Bruce Hamilton of the Sierra Club.
Among the assurances sought by preservationists are that no old-growth stands larger than 300 acres will be harvested, since they are thought to be prime habitat for owls. Smaller stands could be logged if studies showed that a stand does not house any owls and is not likely to benefit owls in the future.
This is a concession by preservationists, who already have stopped logging on some stands as small as 40 acres. But it may not be enough.
“We’re not sure what that means, exactly, not sure what they are really offering,” said Gorlin. “After all, this whole debate is not just a matter of supply (volume), but of certainty.”
Preservationists also balked at an industry request to give up the right to file new suits against timber sales. Preservationists offered to refrain from suing only if industry and government abide by applicable federal laws.