Used by Permission of the Sacramento Bee

House OKs plan to cut danger of forest fires
Published on 07/10/1997, Page B1 , Article 7 of 9 found, 562 words.

Federal legislation that grew out of a compromise between local environmentalists and the timber industry sailed through the House Wednesday on a 429-1 vote, reflecting a similar spirit of collaboration between pro-industry and pro-environment lawmakers.

The bill, modeled after a 1993 forest management plan developed by the Quincy Library Group, directs the U.S. Forest Service to conduct a five-year pilot project to reduce the threat of fire and improve the condition of watersheds and mountainsides on 2.5 million acres of national forest land.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she would introduce identical legislation in the Senate today. Using the House bill authored by Rep. Wally Herger, R-Marysville, is the fastest way to get legislation signed by the president and the work started in the woods, Feinstein said Wednesday.

In Quincy, members of the Quincy Library Group celebrated both the House passage of their plan and last-minute negotiations that gave it overwhelming approval in Washington. Linda Blum, a Quincy environmentalist, called it a vote of confidence for communities and for solving problems.

"Most people don't want to fight. Most people really want to find solutions," said Blum, a member of the group that took its name from the only neutral place where members could agree to meet.

Rep. Vic Fazio, D-West Sacramento, said passage of the bill he co-sponsored proves the value of reaching consensus, the process used by the Quincy Library Group throughout its four-year history.

Opposition to the bill faded after Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, a timber industry advocate, and Rep. George Miller, D-Pleasant Hill, a staunch environmentalist, agreed on several amendments. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, cast the lone no vote.

The Quincy coalition plan aims to reduce the danger of wildfire by removing dead and dying timber from up to 60,000 acres a year on the Plumas, Lassen and Tahoe national forests. Logging would be by single trees or in small groups of up to two acres.

The goal is to return the forest to the open, fire-resistant state European settlers found when they first arrived, said Plumas County Supervisor Bill Coates, a co-founder of the group. The harvested logs would provide lumber for local sawmills.

Despite the coalition's promise to protect wilderness and environmentally sensitive areas, environmentalists representing local, regional and national groups opposed Herger's bill.

The project area is too large and the pilot period too long, said Louis Blumberg of the Wilderness Society in San Francisco.