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Administration's Environmental Plan Expands

posted on November 25, 2000

Once the bane of conventional agriculture, the farm lobby may now be warming to the Kyoto Accord ... the agreement that seeks to reduce so-called greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

There's now talk of a plan to allow governments to provide green payments to farmers who employ conservation practices that reduce carbon emissions. The proposal dovetails nicely with rising sentiment in Washington to link government subsidies to on-farm conservation practices.

Green payments ultimately could be part of the environmental legacy of the Clinton presidency. But in the final weeks of his term of office, the president seems to be targeting environmental initiatives to more traditional matters. His most recent proposals address issues ranging from timber to salmon, to bears.

The Clinton Administration has expanded an environmental plan first announced in May. The administration would put nearly one-third of the Forest Service's 192 million acres off limits to road construction, mining and logging to protect pristine wilderness areas. The major change from last spring is the inclusion of 9.3 million acres in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska.

Administration officials say the plan would now bring about a 93% reduction in timber sales within roadless areas. Critics of the plan say such protection will cost jobs and the economic impact will be greater than the Administration anticipates.

Exceptions to the rules would be to allow thinning of dense tree stands if it reduces the risk of wildfires and to aid endangered species.

In a separate environmental move, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, plans to release at least 25 grizzly bears along the Idaho-Montana border. But the main entrée for the omnivorous mammal -- is salmon -- another species in trouble in the wild.

Governors in the Pacific Northwest have agreed on some suggestions to restore river salmon populations in the Columbia River, but it may not be good enough, say environmental groups. While, suggestions include changing how dams operate, how streamside habitat is protected, and augmenting river flows at critical times, policy-setters disagree on bypassing dams for the fish, so the idea of breaching dams is not on the table.

Environmentalists insist that salmon can't be saved unless the dams are bypassed.

While the environmental controversies continue, their future may hinge on the next president. For example, limiting logging in national forests was a campaign issue touted by Vice President Al Gore. But it runs counter to the approach advocated by Governor George W. Bush. The Republican candidate criticized the administration's initial blueprint as an excessive use of federal power.

Tags: Energy/Environment government news