Clinton: Jobs, Logs and Owls

July 06, 1993

It all seemed so easy out there on the old campaign trail. Candidate Bill Clinton went to Portland, Ore., last September and effusively declared: "I know you can be both pro-growth and pro-environment" in sorting out a controversy that had shut down logging on federal lands in the Pacific Northwest to safeguard the endangered spotted owl. He got the endorsement of both the Sierra Club and unions representing 125,000 lumber workers, the political equivalent of a win-win solution.

But now, as president, Mr. Clinton has had to reach down into his reserves of political resourcefulness to come up with a lose-lose compromise. In so doing, he has predictably enraged environmentalists, the timber industry, its workers and residents of the area. That's not bad for a pol with a reputation for excessively trying to please.

His plan attempts to do a lot of things at once to end the logjam. It reopens old-growth forests to selective logging but at hTC permitted levels only two-thirds as high as the chain-saw Eighties. It provides special protection for streams and watersheds, this in hopes of reviving a salmon industry as an alternative to a permanently reduced logging industry. It prohibits the export of raw logs from public lands to steer business to mills reeling from the spotted owl moratorium. It funnels $1.2 billion over five years to worker retraining and economic development for the Pacific Northwest. It restricts logging in owl habitats. It establishes ten pioneer sites for ecosystem management experiments.

All this is the essence of Clintonism. He unleashed six federal departments usually at loggerheads with one another on environment-economy issues to chew on the timber problem. And while he pleased none of the combatants and infuriated House Speaker Tom Foley, that liberal protector of industry interests, he seems to have crafted a package designed to pass muster with federal Judge William Dwyer of Seattle, who has scheduled a hearing for July 16. Judge Dwyer imposed the logging moratorium in 1990, accusing the lumber industry of "a remarkable series of violations" of the Endangered Species Act.

If the administration can get Judge Dwyer's nod, it evidently figures it can accomplish much by executive order while getting what it likes and blocking what it dislikes in Congress. We shall see. This is not the old campaign trail. This is governing. This is doing what only presidents can do.

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