Sacramento Bee Editorial (December 19, 1997)

Boxer caves: Switch on logging bill a political gesture
(Published Dec. 19, 1997)

  U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer has long been a supporter of the local consensus-building efforts in the logging community of Quincy to establish an environmentally sustainable timber plan for the Sierra. Intrigued by their efforts, she took the time to visit Quincy and tour some logging sites where selective techniques were being used. She told locals, "I think it's exciting. I think it's a model." She stuck to her word, co-sponsoring this year a Senate bill that attempts to enact a five-year logging plan for the Plumas and Lassen national forests.

  The Quincy Group devised the plan in 1993 but ultimately sought Congress' help because of the slow pace of change within the U.S. Forest Service. Then this month, Boxer began blasting the Quincy proposal and praising her own environmental credentials. Her about-face seems nothing other than a capitulation to national environmental organizations who are attempting to squash the grass-roots Quincy effort.

  As Boxer announced plans to withdraw her cosponsorship of the bill, she began trying to rewrite her own history, suggesting in a letter to a Bay Area weekly newspaper that she never liked the Quincy bill and merely cosponsored it as a way to make necessary changes, such as further protecting certain areas of old-growth pines. Her official reasoning follows the script of a misinformation campaign by groups such as the Sierra Club and Wilderness Society, who seize on politicians who don't do their own homework.

  The green lobby, for example, trumpets an outdated congressional analysis of an initial Quincy bill that estimates a doubling of logging in these forests over the next five years. They conveniently ignore a more recent analysis of the existing Quincy bill by the U.S. Forest Service that concludes that levels of logging would remain the same as the past half-decade. Environmental groups also warn that certain old-growth tracts would be targets based on a landmark mapping of the Sierra Nevada, which upon reading warns the public that it would be "dangerous" to use these same maps for any such management purposes. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, lead sponsor of the Senate bill, warned Boxer in a letter of these falsehoods perpetuated by the environmental lobby. But Boxer hasn't listened.

  The Quincy bill would launch a five-year experiment in these forests as well as a section of the Tahoe National Forest by testing logging methods that reduce the number of smaller trees that can intensify fires while leaving the tallest and oldest standing. Its balance is why the House of Representatives passed it by a vote of 429 to 1, handing the environmental establishment one of its worst drubbings in memory. The Senate almost passed the bill on its consent calendar before political gridlock settled in. What happens when the Senate reconvenes is anybody's guess. Passage depends more on how hard Feinstein will fight for the bill than how far Boxer will bend for the green lobby.

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