Forest plan is alive -- so far: Quincy
proposal kept in budget bill

By Jane Braxton Little
Bee Correspondent
(Published Oct. 17, 1998)

QUINCY -- When negotiations over a $500 billion omnibus appropriations
bill ended Friday with a proposal by the Quincy Library Group still attached
and intact, members of the grass-roots coalition appeared more stunned than

After a bruising, yearlong battle with national environmental groups over their
plan to manage 2.5 million acres of national forest in the northern Sierra
Nevada, the group's loggers and environmentalists, union and civic leader
members were not quite ready to celebrate.

Instead, most of them were tromping through the woods on a field trip with
U.S. Forest Service officials to review how they will monitor the work
proposed for streams, meadows and forest thickets.

"We didn't think this day would ever come. We're too busy working to jump
for joy just yet," said Linda Blum, a former Audubon employee and Quincy
Library Group member.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat who sponsored the legislation in
the Senate in 1997, hailed its continued survival as a victory for local
consensus decision-making.

"It proves that even some of the most intractable environmental issues can be
resolved if people work together toward a common goal," she said.

The Quincy Library Group formed in 1993 after representatives of Sierra
Pacific Industries asked Michael Jackson, a Quincy environmental attorney, to
work with them to keep the local timber-dependent economy from collapsing.

The group took its name from the only neutral meeting place members could
agree upon. It attracted support from business owners, lumber union leaders
and other local officials who had traditionally been at odds over managing
forest resources.

The legislation they crafted directs the U.S. Forest Service to carry out a
five-year pilot project that includes logging around 9,000 acres annually in
small clear-cut blocks.

In addition, small trees and brush will be removed from up to 60,000 acres
annually to reduce the threat of wildfire in the Plumas and Lassen national
forests and the Sierraville District of the Tahoe National Forest.

The Quincy Library Group plan also makes about 500,000 acres of national
forestland off-limits to logging and protects watersheds, riparian and
wilderness areas.

The bill by Rep. Wally Herger, R-Marysville, sailed through the House in July
1997 on a 429-1 vote. But it faced heavy opposition from over 140 regional
and national environmental groups that criticized the increases in logging and
what they called micro-management of federal lands.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the bill's Senate co-sponsor, withdrew her
support and blocked the legislation from going to a debate and vote before the
full Senate. The Quincy plan did not offer sufficient environmental protections
and set a poor precedent for national forest management, Boxer said.

The legislation remained in limbo until last week when Feinstein attached it as a
rider to the 1999 federal spending bill. Until it is formally approved by
Congress and signed by President Clinton, opponents will continue to fight the
Quincy bill, said Louis Blumberg, a spokesman for the Wilderness Society.

"We're bitterly disappointed that the pro-timber lobby in Washington used this
backdoor approach -- this old-school traditional method for special-interest
groups within the Beltway," Blumberg said.

The legislation includes about $11 million in federal funds to reduce forest
fuels, improve habitat along streams and other wildlife corridors, and study the
plan's environmental effects.

The estimated 50 percent increase in the Plumas, Lassen and Tahoe forest
budgets is money that has to come from programs in other national forests,
Blumberg said.

Members of the Quincy Library Group designed the plan to test new forest
management techniques, which could have effects far beyond the three national
forests. The group, which has around 30 active members, is one of dozens of
coalitions around the country formed to solve local natural resource problems
that have divided their communities.

Although several groups are older and have accomplished far more on the
ground, the Quincy group became the most visible among them.

The legislation's success, so far, should encourage others, said Tom Nelson, a
forester with Sierra Pacific Industries. The opposition only turned the group
into a stronger coalition, he said.

"When it was time for labor to take the lead, labor leaders did. When it was
time for the environmentalists, they did. That was our strength -- everyone
played a role," said Nelson.

The Quincy group's success may herald a new way of doing business, said Bill
Coates, a former Plumas County supervisor and group co-founder. Instead of
waging battles that leave one side a winner and the other a loser, the Quincy
Library Group demonstrates the potential for decisions made through a process
in which each party gives up a little.

"Maybe we're learning that the best answers aren't total victories for one side
or the other," Coates said.

Forest Service officials said they already have started a preliminary review of
the Quincy plan's environmental effects and expect to have a draft study ready
for public comment by the spring.


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