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Statement by Nathaniel Lawrence, NRDC Senior Attorney

WASHINGTON, DC (November 3, 2005) -- U.S. Representative Greg Walden (R-OR) today introduced legislation to eliminate some of the last remaining protections for public forests especially vulnerable to industrial logging after wildfires. Logging under Walden's plan could include clearcutting remote wildlands on just a few days notice, ruining streams, routing endangered species, and even increasing the risk of future fires, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

This legislation would permit post-fire "salvage" logging on federal lands without benefit of the fundamental protections of landmark environmental laws, like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), that have safeguarded the public's interest in wildlife, lands, and rivers for 30 years.

Following is a statement by NRDC Senior Attorney Niel Lawrence:

"Congressman Walden's bill would have us follow up natural disasters with man-made ones. What we really need is to maintain our nation's fundamental laws and policies governing the management of forests. Those laws ensure that meaningful public involvement, sound science, and accountability are part of the process to protect forests that are in their most fragile state following a fire.

"His bill would allow loggers to rush in after a fire with chainsaws roaring, long before a sensible, site-specific plan can be devised to protect the forest that remains and without any meaningful, informed input by the public into how public officials should be managing public lands.

"The period after a forest fire is when sound management is most important. Industrial logging in these areas can actually make them more prone to future fires, because loggers leave behind the little trees and limbs that serve as tinder for new fires. Bulldozers can crush naturally regenerating seedlings. Temporary roads can fill trout streams with sediment and mud.

"The big trees that timber companies covet are the building blocks for a new forest to emerge after a fire. This is part of a forest's lifecycle. If we let commercial interests pull out this essential nutrient capital while these areas are at their most sensitive stage of development, they may never recover."

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 1 million members and online activists nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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