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Conserve Wetlands

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Friday August 24, 2001
Governors Call For Action
Secretaries of State Join In!
By Chuck Burley, Contributor

    YOSEMITE -- On Friday, The Western Governors Association and the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior signed a 10-year comprehensive strategy to address issues associated with wildfires.
     The strategy for improved prevention and suppression of wildfires calls for aggressive thinning and prescribed fires. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman stated that the strategy won't overlap with the Forest Service's controversial roadless area policy. .
     Veneman also said that both she and Interior Secretary Gale Norton have directed their respective staffs to jointly implement the strategy.
     However, before anything can be implemented, there must first be an implementation plan developed. .
     The strategy calls for the implementation plan to be developed by May 2002. That plan will contain the nuts and bolts of how to address over the next ten years the problems facing our national wildlands. .
     According to Veneman, the plan must contain a single set of standards and direction for all government agencies. Furthermore, it must be effective and provide clear priorities. Other issues raised repeatedly by administration officials, governors and panelists were the need for accountability, timeliness, and the need to improve and streamline the process. .
     Perhaps the best summary of how important this is was stated by South Dakota Governor William Janklow, who said, "World War II only took America 3 years to prepare and fight we can't wait that long - - the forests will be gone."
     Members of the core team that helped write the 10 year strategy were present to join Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth and National Fire Plan Director Lyle Laverty in presenting the plan..
     Panelists included: John Howard, Union County Commissioner (OR); Jason Campbell, National Cattlemen Association; Greg Aplet, The Wilderness Society; and Chuck Burley, AFRC.
     Also discussed at the meeting was how a better network of electricity transmission lines could go a long way in solving the energy supply crisis here in the west.
     Participating in the discussion with the governors were: Jim Connaughton, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality; Bob Card, Undersecretary of Energy and Nora Brownell, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
     As a result of their discussions, the governors adopted a "Western States Energy Policy Roadmap" insuring that states will continue to play a pivotal role in electrical power decisions and Congress should allow states to create regional mechanisms to decide their common power issues. .
     The meeting was well attended by Wester governors including California Governor Gray Davis(D).
     On August 15, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) held a Forest Summit in Rapid City, South Dakota. .
     The purpose was to begin a dialogue to seek solutions to the gridlock facing the Black Hills National Forest. A panel of speakers including representatives of recreation, Native American tribes, and environmentalists presented views on the problems facing the forest.
     There was little doubt left after the panel was done that the crisis in the Black Hills is similar to those experienced by the West and the nation. These include forest health, risk of wildfire and a process so cumbersome that the Forest Service cannot get anything done in a timely manner. Chief Bosworth said that fixing the process, or as he calls it "paralysis by analysis," is one of his priorities. .
     Daschle laid out his three-part proposal to address the issues. First he'd like to create a Black Hills Advisory Committee to seek common ground and try to arrive at some solutions. Second he announced his intention to seek legislation to establish one or more pilot projects in the Black Hills to demonstrate the ability to address the forest health and wildfire problems using thinning and other activities. .
     Last he would like to see an intensive review of the Forest Service decision-making process at the national level. Reaction to Daschle's proposal was mixed among the panelists. Most were in favor or at least willing to consider his proposal..
     However, the local Sierra Club representative opposed the idea saying that an advisory committee is not needed since there's already enough public participation and that active management won't solve the problems. .
     In fact, the Sierra Club representative said "...the only reason the problem exists today is due to past logging and cutting trees won't do any good."

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Nature Notes
"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves."
     -- John Muir, 1901

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