GOP, environmentalists in agreement

President's roadless national forest plan drawing fire from both sides

Posted: Thursday, July 13, 2000

WASHINGTON -- As Senate Republicans prepare to try to stop President Clinton's plan to place 43 million acres of federal forests off limits to development, environmentalists Tuesday reminded Clinton that they don't like the plan either.

Conservation leaders piled cardboard boxes on the U.S. Capitol lawn to represent the 500,000 postcards, letters and e-mails they said they have gathered in favor of strengthening Clinton's plan.

The green activists want Clinton to include Alaska's Tongass National Forest, the nation's largest forest, in the roadless plan. The Tongass was exempted under a draft of the document released in May.

They also want to ban logging in roadless areas. Under the draft plan, it would be up to the discretion of local foresters to ban logging.

''It's time to protect all our remaining last wild places,'' said Gene Karpinski, executive director of U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Democratic Reps. George Miller of California and Maurice Hinchey of New York joined the activists in calling for more protections. ''This plan may provide some political protection but it doesn't provide forest protection,'' Miller said.

Clinton is trying to use administrative rulemaking to prevent road building and other development on 43 million acres -- more than one-fifth of all federal forests.

His plan, announced in May, sets broad criteria for logging, grazing and recreational activities, and leaves it up to local foresters to decide whether roads should be banned on parcels of 5,000 acres or less.

The event outside the Capitol came as Republicans prepared to offer an amendment as early as Wednesday that would delay Clinton's plan until 60 days after a panel reviews the effort and submits a report to Congress.

Environmentalists say the proposal by Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, is an attempt to put off the plan until Clinton leaves office, with the hope that Republican George W. Bush is elected and scraps the initiative.

Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., who is managing the $15.5 billion Senate interior appropriations bill Craig will try to attach his amendment to, said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday that he has not yet seen Craig's amendment and could not comment on it.

But Gorton noted that Craig's amendment ''obviously ... would make this bill much more controversial'' than it would otherwise be. A comment period on the draft forest plan ends next week. A final version of the rule is expected in later fall or winter.

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