Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Salvage Logging & Timber Payments, Redux

A week ago I wrote about a topic that might seem regional, even provincial (the administration's suppression of new science that suggested aggressive logging might not be the best way to help forests recover after wildfires, and its cutting of federal payments to rural timber-dependent counties). I raised the issues because I think those events were emblematic of the problems plaguing the current administration and -- more broadly -- the current system of money-driven, special-interest-driven, sound-bite-driven politics. Whenever good science and common sense are trumped by profiteers and political calculators, I think the story's of interest to all.

Since then, I've run into three salient items on those topics.

First, the Eugene Register-Guard has come out with a clearly-written editorial supporting and explaining the timber payments system far more concisely and accurately than I did.

Second, a wonky analysis of a subset of the problem: payments to counties from lands given by the feds to the railroads a century ago. (The headline doesn't match the fairly balanced tone of the article.)

Third, some good news: Rep. Greg Walden, an Eastern Oregon Republican who supports timber interests, has agreed to hold hearings into the new scientific research that contraindicates salvage logging. Those hearings may or may not prove constructive -- at worst they could be witchhunts, and at best they aren't the same as conscientious peer-reviewed science -- but they're a huge step in the right direction, and I praise Rep. Walden for taking that step.

In the meantime, Rep. Jay Inslee of Washington, whose brief floor speech is what set me off on this strange discussion in the first place, doesn't seem to be playing a prominent role, and his office hasn't gotten back to me in response to my request for a comment or at least a transcript of that speech. I wish he would: I'd like to praise him some more. Oh, well. Some good seems to be happening, anyway.

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