Ore. fires fuel Bush's forest policy
notice the remarkable job that this author does,
blaming President Bush for the 2002 Klamath River
fish die-off of Trinity River fish. There are dead
trees being infested with insects, Bush wants to
clean up (NOT CLEAR CUT) the forest, and the enviros
say it's a conspiracy. Welcome to the America!
By DEB RIECHMANN
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
Steve Kelton, left, instructs Juan Carlos how to use
a fire hose at a wildfire training camp near Salem,
Ore., Friday, July 11, 2003. Over the past five
years, Hispanics have flooded the ranks of contract
firefighting crews in Oregon and Washington, two of
the country's leading contracting states.
Contractors say Hispanics make up more than 60
percent of the crews - making Spanish the majority
language of firefighters. (AP Photo/John Gress)
CRAWFORD, Texas -- Fast-growing blazes in central
Oregon are serving as a backdrop for President
Bush's plan to thin forests of trees and underbrush
- and as fuel for environmentalists who oppose the
Bush leaves his Texas ranch on Thursday bound for
Deschutes National Forest, launching a two-day trip
to the Pacific Northwest to polish his environmental
After speaking at a $2,000-a-ticket fund-raiser in
Portland, Bush is to visit Camp Sherman, Ore., near
where hundreds of firefighters are battling the
Bush has been pushing his forest-thinning initiative
for months - in southeastern Arizona last week, on
the radio Saturday, in the Rose Garden in May. The
House has passed the administration's proposal. A
Senate version has cleared committee and could be
addressed by the full chamber as early as next
Environmental groups, including some expected to
protest his visit, say the president's forest policy
allows timber companies to log large trees in the
interest of thinning. They also are wary of
streamlined environmental studies and limited
appeals on proposed work to cut trees and brush on
as many as 20 million acres of forest land.
The Wilderness Society says the administration's
proposal falls far short of protecting communities
near forests. The society argues that the Bush
proposal focuses on federal lands while studies show
that 85 percent of the land that surrounds
communities most at risk from wildfires is private,
state or tribal land - not federal.
"We're worried that they're using the fear of
wildfires to promote logging in the backcountry -
far away from homes and communities," said society
spokesman Chris Mehl.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the
president's event in Oregon will "highlight the
importance of conservation and the importance of
personal stewardship, while making sure that we
protect jobs at the same time."
"I think that the environment is too important to be
made into a divisive partisan issue," he said
There are political reasons for visiting the two
states that Bush failed to win in 2000.The Bush
campaign is eyeing Oregon, which the president lost
to Al Gore by only about 6,700 votes. Poll numbers
show Democrats with a 2-1 advantage over Bush when
people were asked whom they trust to do the best job
on the environment.
Gore won Washington with 50.2 percent of the vote,
compared with Bush's 44.6 percent. Bush's schedule
on Friday includes another fund-raiser and a
speech on saving salmon in neighboring Washington.
A topic in Oregon that the administration has sought
to downplay involves the role of Bush's political
strategist, Karl Rove, in developing water policy in
the Klamath River Basin, which was ravaged by
drought in 2001.
A year and a half ago, Rove briefed dozens of
political appointees at the Interior Department
about diverting water in the Klamath to help
farmers, a key group of GOP supporters.
Environmentalists want a fuller explanation of the
briefing, which the White House says was routine.
The Interior Department increased the water supply
to drought-stricken farmland several months later
despite complaints from environmentalists who argued
that diverting the water would kill threatened fish.
After irrigation was restored in 2002, 33,000
chinook salmon died while swimming up the Klamath.
The White House has said that Bush has set up a
Cabinet-level group on the Klamath, which is
committed to balancing the needs of farmers, people
who need jobs, the quality of water and fish
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