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GOP Lawmaker Attacks Forest Service

March 15, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Republican lawmaker sharply criticized a memo from two environmental groups that she said indicates the Forest Service planned to use the groups to help implement President Clinton’s plan to bar development of millions of acres of forests.

``That has not merely crossed the line, it totally obliterates the line″ between government and outside interest groups, Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage, R-Idaho, said Tuesday.

Chenoweth said a Jan. 24 memo shows the Forest Service was developing an agreement that would allow the World Wildlife Fund and the Conservation Biology Institute to develop a process for mapping and assessing roadless national forests, a key step in carrying out Clinton’s plan.

Staff members for Chenoweth’s House Resources forests and forest health subcommittee found the memo in documents the administration handed over to satisfy the panel’s request for materials related to the president’s proposal.

Through the Forest Service, the Clinton administration is drafting a sweeping regulation to protect from development permanently about 50 million acres of already roadless federal forests. Congressional Republicans, recreation groups and the timber industry want to sidetrack the initiative to keep access to the forests.

The memo Chenoweth’s staff found is a draft of a proposal for a $650,000 grant from the Wildlife Fund and the Biology Institute to the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. In the memo, the groups say they are eager to sign an agreement that would have the Forest Service and the groups ``work together to create a sound, science-based roadless areas assessment.″ At the Forest Service’s urging, it said, the agreement ``will be national in scope.″

``We have a huge opportunity to influence the Forest Service and perhaps other agencies to move progressively on the roadless areas issue and perhaps others,″ the memo says.

Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck said he never would sign such an agreement and he cannot be held accountable for a memo written by two environmental groups.

``It’s basically a suggestion on the part of someone,″ Dombeck said.

Dominick DellaSalla, director of the Klamath-Siskiyou regional program for the Wildlife Fund, confirmed the authenticity of the document. But he said the groups ultimately requested only $400,000 from the Packard foundation.

DellaSalla said the groups were ``exaggerating for the purpose of trying to get a foundation grant″ when they wrote the essence of the proposed agreement was to help the Forest Service create a sound, science-based roadless areas assessment.

Scott Rehmus, an associate program manager at Packard, said no final decision has been made on the groups’ request.

___

On the Net: World Wildlife Fund: http://www.worldwildlife.org/

Forests and Forest Health Subcommittee: http://www.house.gov/resources/forests/

U.S. Forest Service: http://www.fs.fed.us/

David and Lucile Packard Foundation: http://www.packfound.org/index.htm

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