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Industry Sees Uncertainty, Environmentalists See Red Over Owl Plan With AM-Spotted Owl, Bjt

June 27, 1990

SEATTLE (AP) _ Timber industry groups saw some hope but a lot of uncertainty in Tuesday’s Bush administration proposal for preserving the northern spotted owl. Environmentalists saw red.

″It’s a disaster,″ said Mike Anderson of The Wilderness Society. ″I think the decision has been put right in the middle of the political arena. The scientists are being overridden.″

The administration said its plan to protect the owl would result in the eventual loss of 1,000 jobs due to reduced timber cutting on federally controlled land in Oregon and northern California.

The proposed reductions in logging and the job losses are far less than what government scientists had estimated would be necessary to save the habitat of the owl, which was declared a threatened species last week.

The news was greeted as encouraging by some in the timber industry.

″It was a good feeling,″ said Jerry Leppell, president of American Loggers Solidarity and owner of a saw shop. ″It sounds like they are starting to wake up and I hope to hell they do.″

But he and Don Clothier, director of the Grays Harbor Economic Development Council, said the lack of a reliable forest-use plan has left logging communities with an uncertain future.

″That’s the thing for us out here on the firing line. We feel we are being tossed around like a political football,″ Clothier said.

The administration proposal includes plans to create an interagency task force to come up with a plan for managing national forests in Washington, Oregon and northern California. It would also amend the Endangered Species Act, allowing a committee of mostly cabinet members to bypass scientific evidence in devising plans to protect a threatened or endangered species.

Andy Kerr, conservation director of the Oregon Natural Resources Council, said the proposals amounted to a ″Tiananmen Square for American wildlife.

″Opening up the Endangered Species Act is not a good idea in the heat of the moment,″ he said.

But Chris West, a forester for the Northwest Forestry Association, said in Portland that the act needs changing because, as time goes on, it will block more and more economic development around the country.

″It’s not just the spotted owl,″ he said. ″It’s the desert tortoise, the red cockaded woodpecker, the fisher, wild salmon runs. We need to start balancing this with other needs of society.″

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