THE WHITE HOUSE OFFICE ON ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY _________________________________________________________________ FOR Immediate Release: October 7, 1993
ADMINISTRATION REACHES UNPRECEDENTED AGREEMENT FOR NW FORESTS 1st Step Toward Releasing 54 Timber Sales Now Under Injunction, Review Process Expanded
Other Timber Ready to Move, New Sales to be Offered
WASHINGTON -- The Clinton Administration has reached an unprecedented agreement that is the first step toward releasing 54 Pacific Northwest timber sales currently locked up under federal court injunction. In addition, up to 1 billion board feet of already sold timber is available for harvesting and, Administration officials said today, between now and year's end, another 140 million board feet of new sales would be offered.
Under the agreement with Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, more than a dozen environmental groups, plaintiffs in a court suit against the government, have agreed not to oppose the Administration's request to the court that the sales be removed from the injunction so they can be harvested. If Judge William Dwyer agrees to the request, 83 million board feet of timber would be released from the injunction.
As part of the agreement, the Clinton Administration will continue in its opposition to "sufficiency" language, legislation that would allow the President's forest plan to be considered on a 'fast track' that would circumvent environmental laws and insulate the President's plan from lawsuits.
"This is a good agreement, a constructive agreement, and one that I fully support," President Clinton said. "It reflects our commitment to end the gridlock, to replace confrontation with cooperation, and to make every effort to move timber back to the mills. I also support the agreement's continued commitment to allow existing law to work and to oppose any legislative shortcuts that would insulate the final plan from review."
Under the agreement, the plaintiffs and the Forest Service also have committed to review an expanded set of sales now tied up in administrative appeals in Region 5 and 6 (Northern California, Oregon, and Washington), with the objective of identifying and resolving the issues quickly, withdrawing the appeals, and allowing the sales to proceed without further delay. The plaintiffs also have agreed to continue to review sales under injunction and not cleared by this initial agreement to identify additional sales which also might proceed.
"No one is pretending this is a large volume of timber but this is an important agreement. These two sides, which have been engaged in an aggressive, pitched battle for more than a decade, have finally agreed to work together, " said Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy. "This is the best tangible evidence to date that this is in fact a new day in northwest forest management."
Significantly, the agreement moves negotiations into a new arena, with the potential for the release of substantially more timber. The agreement calls for the plaintiffs to look at all sales they currently have under appeal in Forest Service Regions 5 and 6 with the intention of identifying those sales that are likely candidates for prompt resolution outside the appeals process. The agreement calls on both the Forest Service and the plaintiffs to undertake to a prompt, good faith effort to resolve issues associated with the appeals, dropping the appeals and allowing the sales as agreed upon to proceed without further appeal by the plaintiffs.
"This moves these sales away from the time-consuming and adversarial appeals process," said Secretary Espy. "It moves us away from conflict and toward consensus."
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt said, "Far more significant than the volume is that we have secured from the environmental community a commitment to work with us and not against us in designing a stable, defensible timber sales program. They have committed to continue and expand this process."
The environmental groups joined as plaintiffs are Pilchuk Audubon Society, Oregon Natural Resources Council, Headwaters, Forest Conservation Council, Northcoast Environmental Center, National Audubon Society, Seattle Audubon Society, The Wilderness Society, Washington Environmental Council, Klamath Forest Alliance, Lane County Audubon Society and Portland Audubon Society.
Officials at federal land management agencies said there is another 1 billion board feet of timber under contract and ready for harvest that is clear of any injunctions and has passed the Endangered Species Act review. And, that between now and the end of 1993, another 140 million board feet of new timber sales will be offered.