Peak & Prairie

Rocky Mountain Chapter's
Online Newsletter
December 1997

 

The National Forest Protection and Restoration Act
by Kirk Cunningham, Chapter Conservation Chair

Since the last Congressional election in 1994, environmental groups have been on the defensive in Congress under assault from (mostly) Republican lawmakers who are persistently trying to wreck major environmental statutes. By the time you read this, it is likely that at least some damage will have been done. Fortunately we now have a legislative weapon to fight vested interests, at least for National Forest lands protection.

On October 30 1997 the National Forest Protection and Restoration Act (NFPRA) was introduced with bipartisan support. If passed, this bill will end the commercial timber sale program on federal lands and redirect the vast logging subsidies into federal deficit reduction, worker retraining for restoration and alternative fiber development. Recently the Congressional Research Service verified a study that showed that nearly $800 million of taxpayer money was lost by the U.S. Forest Service timber program while providing the equivalent of less than 4% of total US wood consumption. The timber program returned no money to the U.S. treasury.

The NFPRA was introduced by Representatives Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) and Jim Leach (R-IA). The fact that this proposed legislation is both fiscally and environmentally conservative is attractive to both political parties, although more Democrats are supporting it. The list of original co-sponsors includes Bob Filner (D-CA), Pete Stark (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Lewis Gutierrez (D-IL), John Lewis (D-GA), George Brown (D-CA), Julian Dixon (D-CA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA).

The Sierra Club's Campaign to End Logging on Public Land needs people to recruit co-sponsors. Rep. John Kasich of Ohio, chair of the House Budget Committee, is a prime example of a potential Republican co-sponsor because he has shown interest in a fiscally conservative approach to environmental protection. Conservative farming districts are interested in alternative fiber development; most agricultural residue is burned as waste even though it has economic value as replacement fiber for paper. Removing such barriers to free trade as high federal timber subsidies would make alternative and recycled fibers competitive with virgin fiber from timber. The restriction on federal timber cutting has the potential to increase the value of the more productive private timber land and provide incentives to sustainable timber production.

Ask your Member of Congress to co-sponsor or at least support NFPRA. Here in Colorado David Skaggs and Diane DeGette should be good candidates for co-sponsors.

For more information, contact the Sierra Club at (202) 675-2382. To see a copy of the bill or a more detailed synopsis, contact Kirk Cunningham at (303) 939-8519, kmcunnin@juno.com, or 1842 Canyon Blvd. #204, Boulder CO 80302.

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