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Lawmakers seek details on Biscuit wilderness proposal


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Nearly a month after the Bush administration announced plans for new federal wilderness within the area burned by the massive 2002 Biscuit fire in Oregon, officials have released few details.

No legislation has been submitted to Congress, nor have maps or detailed descriptions of the areas being targeted been distributed, beyond a general summary of 64,000 acres near the existing Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area in southwestern Oregon.

Two Democratic members of Congress say it's time for the administration to put forward the details.

"If this administration is serious about pursuing wilderness in the Kalmiopsis it will require congressional action. However, there are only 33 legislative days left in this session of the 108th Congress," Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Peter DeFazio wrote in a June 25 letter to the Bush administration.

Wyden and DeFazio asked for maps and descriptions of the areas being targeted, as well as legislative language explaining how the proposal would work.

"We need this information immediately if we are to proceed on this issue," Wyden and DeFazio wrote.

Wyden's chief of staff, Josh Kardon, said the lawmakers were not accusing administration officials of acting in bad faith.


"The request is saying we'll take you at your word that this is a good-faith proposal. But if in fact it's in good faith we need to see your paperwork quickly," Kardon said.

John Twiss, a spokesman for the Forest Service, said the administration had not yet submitted legislative language because the record of decision on the Biscuit salvage project -- in effect, the administration's final word on the project -- has not been issued.

The wilderness proposal was made June 1 along with the final environmental impact statement on the Biscuit plan, which calls for logging 370 million board feet of timber killed by the fire.

The environmental impact statement is the next-to-last step before a record of decision, which is expected July 7 on the salvage plan.

Once that is issued, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management "will work with the Congress to supply the information for a potential wilderness bill," Twiss said.

Twiss, who works for Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, said Rey believes there is enough time to submit the legislation, conduct a public hearing and hold votes on the plan in both the House and Senate before the end of the year.

Environmentalists and members of Congress were taken by surprise when Scott Conroy, supervisor of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, proposed adding to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, which covers 180,000 acres in the middle of the 500,000 acres that burned in the 2002 Biscuit fire.

Environmentalists criticized the wilderness plan from the start, saying it amounts to a trade-off for logging other parts of the forest burned in the Biscuit fire. Those areas also should also be protected, environmentalists say.


On the Net:

Biscuit Fire Recovery Plan: http://www.biscuitfire.com

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