17. Clinton's Option 9 Plan: A Resounding Defeat
for Ancient Forests
Sources: LIES OF OUR TIMES, Date: November
1993, Title: "Ancient Forests Meet the Press," Author: Jeffrey St. Clair;
THE NATION, Date: 8/23/93, Title: "Munich in the Redwoods," Author:
SSU Censored Researcher: Sunil Sharma
SYNOPSIS: On July 1, in the wake of the forest summit held in
Portland, Oregon on April 2, 1993, President Clinton announced his administration's
plan for the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest. The plan, known
as Option 9, drew laudatory coverage from the mainstream media which
heralded it as a victory for environmentalists. However, a close look
at Option 9 reveals that it is a major defeat for environmentalists
...and the ancient forests.
Immediately following the summit, a team of
experts, headed by Forestry Service ecologist and ecosystems advocate Jack Ward
Thomas, were given only two months by the Clinton administration to come up with
a range of options for managing the Northwest forests in a way that would protect
the spotted owl, the marbled murrelet, and salmon, "while also providing
a steady flow to Northwest mills." The team met their June 2 deadline and
presented the administration with eight options. All eight options called for
significant reductions in timber sales. While Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt
earlier had promised loggers the administration would quickly release at least
2 billion board-feet of timber, most of the plans would have limited the cutting
to 500 million board-feet annually.
This was simply unacceptable to the
Clinton administration. Thomas was quickly replaced by Jerry Franklin of Washington
University who put together Option 9 in less than three weeks.
espouses the already discredited notion of a network of "riparian corridors"
and old-growth reserves. A forest reserve is generally defined as an area where
no logging is permitted. However, under Option 9, the system of reserves are considered
to be neither inviolate nor permanent. Every reserve would be open to thinning
operations and timber salvage sales.
Less than five percent of the original
old growth forest still exists, located mainly in national forests and on public
land. (The Mt. Hood National Forest in Oregon has been cut more heavily than the
Brazilian rainforest). Nonetheless, under Option 9, "At least 40 percent
of the remaining old-growth would be subject to clear-cutting." And the remaining
60 percent isn't considered inviolate! These lands provide habitat for thousands
of plant and animal species. Option 9 threatens over 100 of these species, which
depend on the old growth forests, with eventual extinction.
Jeffrey St. Clair, editor of ForestWatch magazine, two million acres of Northwest
forests are essentially wild roadless areas which are "vital repositories
of biological diversity," critical to the survival of many species. Under
Option 9, St. Clair said, these areas receive no special attention; "Clear-cutting
would continue even in the most ecologically sensitive roadless areas." Option
9 also proposes to exempt private landowners from the Endangered Species Act,
allowing them to clear-cut spotted owl and murrelet habitat. Clinton's announcement
of Option 9 came before the study itself was even released. St. Clair reported
that the vast majority of news stories "were filed before reporters had actually
seen the 1,800-page plan." Most of the stories, which the American public
read, were based on a vague nine-page White House press release. Furthermore,
the administration ordered its scientists to circumvent the Freedom of Information
Act; and all background documents, relating to the development of Option 9 and
detailing the extent of political pressure, were either shredded or sealed.
COMMENTS: Jeffrey St. Clair, investigative author and editor
of ForestWatch magazine, charged that President Clinton's new Option
9 forest plan "received lots of hype and initial exposure, but
little analysis and almost no follow-up. The analysis that was published
was either superficial, politically biased, and/or flat-out wrong."
St. Clair feels it was important for the public to know more about
this issue: "The President's forest -- plan was the Clinton administration's
first major policy decision on an environmental issue. The tactics of
the administration on this issue revealed much about how they would
treat other issues, like wetlands, public land grazing, the Endangered
Species Act, and Clean Water Act."
to St. Clair, the interests being served by the limited coverage given the Option
9 forest plan include the Clinton administration, labor, timber interests, and
Japanese timber importers.
St. Clair said that The Nation, High Country
News, and Lies Of Our Times continue to be the only publications to pursue in-depth
political reporting and investigation into this issue. Other articles he has written
on the subject have been rejected by the mainstream media.
Option 9 plan, so widely-touted by the mainstream media as the solution to the
logging vs. environmentalist controversy in mid-1993 appeared to be unraveling
by the end of the year.
On November 26, USA Today reported that the plan
was "fraying at both ends." Environmentalists claim the plan breaks
the law because it doesn't protect Northern spotted owls and 400 other species
dependent on ancient forests. Timber and paper companies claim the plan is economically
damaging, unscientific, and will result in dangerous wildfires in the region.
And by December 11, the Los Angeles Times was reporting that a new Clinton proposal
to relax logging requirements on private lands in the Northwest had renewed the
controversy over the spotted owl.
Ironically, as 1993 drew to a close, the
Clinton administration turned to the person whose original eight proposals had
been rejected. Jack Ward Thomas, the career Forest Service wildlife biologist
from LaGrande, Oregon, was named the new chief of the U.S. Forest Service in an
apparent effort to restore the reputation of the agency.