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Environmental, Campaign & Website News > Indonesia and Alaska articles

Indonesia and Alaska articles

Date : 12th February 2003, Source : Various



Indonesia admits damage to forests from illegal logging

Friday, February 07, 2003
By Associated Press

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- A large portion of Indonesia's forests have been damaged through illegal logging, and other nations must tighten controls to stop importing this wood, a Cabinet minister said Thursday.

"Total losses from illegal logging in Indonesia amount to US$600 million per year, which is equivalent to four times the annual government budget for the forestry sector," Forestry Minister Muhammad Prakosa said in a statement issued Thursday. Until now, illegal logging has gone mostly unchecked in Indonesia, despite repeated assertions by foreign donors and environmental groups that the country's virgin rain forest could vanish by 2005.

The Forestry Ministry in Jakarta has agreed, under international pressure, to impose a nationwide ban after acknowledging that about one-third of Indonesia's 120 million hectares of forest already has been destroyed. The ministry said efforts to curb illegal logging have been derailed by corrupt local authorities, rampant smuggling, and military units that often are involved in the practice.

Indonesia said it urged other countries attending a meeting in Jakarta last week not to accept illegally logged timber. Twelve countries attended the meeting of the Asia Pacific Task Force on Forest Law Enforcement and Governance in Jakarta, which is sponsored by the World Bank and the U.S. government. They include Cambodia, Canada, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, New Zealand, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam.

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NEW YORK TIMES

February 12, 2003
Conferees Approve Provisions to Expand Development in Alaska National Forests By JENNIFER 8. LEE

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 - Republicans have tucked provisions into the spending bill that the House and Senate conferences are negotiating to permit road building in two Alaska forests, expand timber harvesting in national forests and open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to exploratory oil drilling. Democrats say the provisions would weaken Clinton-era protections for national forests. Republicans say Democrats and conservation groups are distorting the proposals to generate opposition to reasonable modifications of overly restrictive policies. Republicans defeated a Democratic effort on Monday to strip the forest amendments from the bill. As a result, the changes will most likely be included if the $396 billion package is approved.

Conservation groups said introducing those policies in the negotiations seriously undermined the 2.2 million comments that the public submitted before the policies were introduced in 2000. Industry groups said the sweeping policies surprised the timber industry in 2000. The main controversy centers on the Tongass and Chugach National Forests in Alaska. The Tongass, the last large remaining rain forest in North America, is roughly the size of West Virginia. The Chugach, the second largest national forest, covers the Copper River Delta, home of a famous salmon run. "This is the forest equivalent of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge," said Phil Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, an environmental group. The debate has been framed over whether the pristine forest is worth the burden it puts on the 7.6 percent unemployment rate in Alaska. "We are trying to restore those lost jobs," said Owen J. Graham, executive director of the Alaska Forest Association, a trade group.

One amendment would exempt Alaska from "roadless" area policies that permanently protect the more than 30 percent of the forests not open to timber sales. More than half the national forests have been opened to logging, and about 15 percent have been designated wilderness. The "roadless" rules essentially protect the remaining land. If the restrictions are lifted, 50 sales pending in the Tongass forest would proceed. A number of the amendments were pushed by Senator Ted Stevens, the Alaska Republican who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and who has received significant contributions from the timber industry. Mr. Stevens defended his amendments, saying he was trying to undo President Bill Clinton's last-minute addition of land in Alaska to the roadless program despite a law that prohibited adding land there. The Clinton administration's designation of many areas of national forest as roadless areas has been challenged in court by Western states, along with the timber industry. The opponents say the government did not assemble enough public reaction for such a broad action. Concern by Democrats and some moderate Republicans also focuses on the introduction of the amendments. Eight moderate Republicans have sent a letter to the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, C. W. Young, Republican of Florida, saying the last-minute secretive talks "seriously undermine the legislative process." "It's not a good way to do business," a signer of the letter, Representative Michael N. Castle, Republican of Delaware, said. "It's a practice that should not be followed." House Republican leaders said they wanted to avoid a fight on the environment in the spending legislation. Other amendments include a push to free Interior Department money for drilling studies in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, despite a 20-year-old ban on exploration there. In addition, the amendments would expand a policy allowing timber companies to cut trees as payment for clearing out undergrowth that poses a fire hazard. The program's advocates say it is an economical way to pay for a much-needed service. Conservation groups say the program kills trees to save trees. Republicans are also proposing to exempt some forest plans from administrative and legal challenges as a way to evade a tactic that conservation groups use to delay sales to build in forests. "It means there is no protection whatsoever for the public interest," said Representative David R. Obey, Democrat of Wisconsin, whose amendment to strip some Republican proposals failed. Industry officials said the exemption was streamlining the challenge process from two rounds, with one for the overall national forest development plan and one for individual land sales, to just the individual sales. "It doesn't take away their right to protest," Mr. Graham of the timber group said. "It takes away their second bite of the apple."

Copyright 2003 < The New York Times Company





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