SAVE AMERICAS FORESTS NEWS RELEASE
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Historic Victory For Forests
Congress Says No to Timber Industry Demands for Increased Logging on National Forests
Participants in the nationwide forest protection movement have, for the first time in a long while, great news to cheer about. Members and supporters of Save Americas Forests should be particularly proud. The forest protection movement and their friends in Congress have handed the timber industry a stunning defeat.
After years of overriding environmental laws and accelerating clearcutting in the last old growth and roadless forest areas in the National Forests, the Congress turned back the timber industrys latest attempt, Rep. Bob Smiths (R-OR) Forest Recovery and Protection Act, by a vote of 181 to 201.
Contrary to its title, the Smith bill would declare open season on large areas in the National Forests for unlimited clearcutting with little or no environmental protection.
"The Smith bill was truly the Son of Salvage Rider", said Carl Ross, executive director of Save Americas Forests, a national citizen coalition. "The American people have risen up against the massive destruction and deception of the timber industry. Congress learned an important lessonAmericans want more protection, not more destruction for their national forests. The rejection of the Smith bill is a step forward in Congressional forest policy."
In 1995 Congress passed a law, the timber salvage rider, that accelerated clearcutting and suspended environmental laws using the excuse that it would only affect dead or dying trees and would improve the health of the national forests. Instead, Ancient Forests and healthy forests throughout the country were clearcut and destroyed. Members of Congress who originally voted for the salvage rider saw that they had been misled and chose not to support a similar measure a second time.
The defeat of the Smith bill can be traced in large part to the nationwide Repeal the Rider campaign initiated three years ago by Save Americas Forests. In the summer 1995, even before President Clinton signed the salvage rider into law, Save Americas Forests started to work on a strategy to defeat the timber industry that culminated in todays great victory against Smiths "Son of Salvage Rider" bill in Congress.
Save Americas Forests met with Senator Bill Bradley in July of 1995, and requested that he introduce a bill to repeal the rider, which he did. In September of 1995, Save Americas Forests wrote a letter to President Clinton requesting that he repeal the rider, signed by over 300 groups and famous Americans, and this letter began the nationwide repeal the rider campaign. The following month, Save Americas Forests led a delegation of environmental groups to present the letter to President Clintons environmental advisor, Katie McGinty. In December of 1995, Representative Furse introduced her repeal the rider bill. Shortly afterwards, all the national environmental groups joined the campaign to repeal the rider. Save Americas Forests had helped unify the environmental movement and set it in the right directiona continuous barrage against Congress and the Administration focusing on the salvage rider.
Although votes to repeal the rider in both the House and the Senate were close, the rider was never repealed, and it expired at the end of 1996. However, because the forest movement was unified, a new "son-of-salvage rider" would have a harder time passing Congress. Perhaps it would not even succeed at all. That historic test came today, and because of nearly three years of intense organizing and publicity by the entire forest protection movement, the Smith bill lost badly.
"While this is a defeat for the timber industry, the Forest Service and the timber industry are still destroying millions of acres of our last wild and Ancient forests with clearcutting and roadbuilding, which is pushing forest species to extinction. This must stop immediately," said Ross.
Member after member who rose in opposition to the Smith bill today spoke of the need to stop clearcutting on the National Forests, and to stop all logging in Ancient Forests, roadless areas, riparian zones, and watersheds. All of these logging restrictions are contained in a bill in Congress, the Act to Save Americas Forests, that is supported by 90 Representatives and 5 Senators.
Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) are the two chief House sponsors of the Act to Save Americas Forests. Their leadership in fighting against the salvage rider in 1995 and 1996, and building support for the Act to Save Americas Forests over the past year was pivotal in educating Congress against the timber industry destruction on our national forests and forging the majority needed for todays victory.
Eshoo spoke against the Smith bill, saying "This legislation is reminiscent of the infamous salvage logging rider which suspended all environmental safeguards to increase logging on every national forest "
Speaking of the Act to Save Americas Forests, Eshoo said, "it would protect native biodiversity in our federal forest lands by abolishing clearcutting in federal forests. It would ban logging and roadbuilding in remaining core areas of biodiversity in federal forests and would protect the less than 10% of original unlogged forests in the United States."
"Instead of [the Smith bill], Congress should be working on a forest restoration bill like the one that my colleague just mentioned, the Act to Save Americas Forests," said Maloney.
Credit and thanks for todays victory also go to Representatives George Miller (D-CA), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Bruce Vento (D-MN), Elizabeth Furse (D-OR), and George Brown (D-CA), for their successful strategy and leadership.
"The defeat of the Smith bill could signal a turnaround toward saving Americas forests. While we cant bring back the Ancient Forests and 1000 year old trees that have been logged and destroyed under the salvage rider and current Forest Service policies, Congress can pass the Act to Save Americas Forests which is a comprehensive solution that will protect our remaining Ancient Forests, and restore our entire national forest system for future generations," said Ross. "Forests sustain the intricate web of life, and we must save all the pieces, not just a few."
"The timber industry has suffered a major defeat in Congress. With 95 members of the House and Senate sponsoring Act to Save Americas Forests, now is the time for forest advocates everywhere to join together in support of the Act, and put the pressure on Congress to pass it into law, " concluded Ross.