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December 2, 2003

Smith, Experts Call for Salvage of Biscuit Fire

Effort would benefit environment and economy
            Roseburg, OR - Today, Senator Gordon Smith held a hearing in
Roseburg to review plans for recovery and salvage of forests which have
suffered catastrophic wildfires.  U.S. Department of Agriculture
Undersecretary Mark Rey and Dr. Hal Salwasser of Oregon State University
testified to the desperate need to begin extensive work to restore these
forests to health.
            "The Biscuit Fire converted a forest largely dominated by
old growth to one that is dominated by shrubs, noxious weeds and
standing dead wood," Smith said.  "Since the Rogue-Siskiyou National
Forest is largely off-limits to timber harvest, Biscuit also proves that
fires are doing far more damage to our forests than chainsaws ever did."
            In 2002, the Biscuit Fire in Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest
burned 500,000 acres over four months, costing taxpayers $153 million to
fight.  It was the largest fire of 2002 as well as the largest in
Oregon's recorded history.  Seventy-five to one hundred percent of the
forest canopy was killed by the fire, leaving no capacity for natural
reseeding.  It further destroyed almost half of the suitable home ranges
of the Spotted Owl while releasing 40 million tons of carbon dioxide
(CO2) in the air.  The quantity of CO2 released was equal to that which
would be emitted by burning three billion gallons of gasoline.
            In July 2003, four forestry scientists from Oregon State
University released the "Biscuit Report" which examined the consequences
of various actions and inaction in the fire's aftermath.  The findings,
presented at today's hearing by Dr. Salwasser indicated that an
aggressive forest regeneration program could accelerate the return of
"old growth" by 50 years or more.  In addition, the scientists reported
that as much as two billion board feet of fire-killed timber outside the
Kalmiopsis Wilderness may be economically accessible.  Harvest of this
wood could create as many as 16,000 new jobs in Oregon.  Furthermore,
the absence of immediate action would consign the area to shrub and
hardwood cover for decades or centuries.   
            "Oregon once led the nation in timber and high-tech, we are
now leading in hunger and unemployment," Smith said.  "The swift
implementation of a recovery plan could create several thousand new jobs
- jobs that feed families, bolster local economies, and pay the taxes
Oregon needs to keep our schools open."



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