House takes no action on Tongass

Conservationists cry foul, say rules were thrown out

Posted: Sunday, May 22, 2005

KETCHIKAN - The U.S. House of Representatives took no action on an amendment that would have stripped funding for logging roads in the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska.

The amendment was ruled out of order Thursday on the grounds it proposes to change existing law. However, two conservation groups are crying foul, saying the amendment went through the proper channels and should have been debated and voted on.

The amendment was offered by Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio. It would have prohibited the federal government from spending money to design or construct roads on the Tongass "for harvesting timber by private entities or individuals."

Tim Bristol, executive director of the Alaska Coalition in Juneau said Friday the move to prevent a vote on the amendment was disappointing.

"We were hoping to see a debate on the floor of the House," he said.

Buck Lindenkugel, conservation director with the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, agreed.

"We think the votes were there and that is why the Republican leadership resorted to throw in the rule book," he said.

Lindenkugel said the amendment went through the proper channels and should have been voted on.

"This amendment had gone through rules," he said. "That is why everyone was working so hard."

Chabot and Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J., offered a similar amendment last year that passed the House and was later removed by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska in the final spending bill.

Environmental groups argue that the government is spending $48 million annually to subsidize clearcutting on the Tongass.

Chabot last year called spending on logging roads an "egregious corporate subsidy."

Tongass Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole countered that last fiscal year's expenditure on forest products was actually about $25 million, with the rest spent on administration, road and bridge construction unrelated to timber harvests and engineering projects, according a "State of the Tongass" response posted on the forest's Web site Thursday.

Lindenkugel said whatever numbers you use, the Tongass loses huge amounts of taxpayer money each year. The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, using expenditure data from the U.S. Forest Service, estimates the agency last year took in just $800,000 on timber purchases.

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