Remarks Announcing the Forest Conservation Plan
Ladies and gentlemen, this issue has been one which has bedeviled the people of the Pacific Northwest for some years now. It has been one that has particularly moved me for two reasons: first of all, because so many people in that part of the country brought their concerns to me in the campaign on all sides of this issue, the timber workers and companies, the environmentalists, the Native Americans, the people who live in those areas who just wanted to see the controversy resolved, so they could get on with their lives; and secondly, because I grew up in a place with a large timber industry and a vast amount of natural wilderness, including a large number of national forests. So I have a very close identity with all the forces at play in this great drama that has paralyzed the Pacific Northwest for too long.
We're announcing a plan today which we believe will strengthen the long-term economic and environmental health of the Pacific Northwest and northern California. The plan provides an innovative approach to forest management to protect the environment and to produce a predictable and sustainable level of timber sales. It offers a comprehensive, long-term plan for economic development. And it makes sure that Federal Agencies, for a change, will be working together for the good of all the people of the region.
The plan is a departure from the failed policies of the past, when as many as six different Federal Agencies took different positions on various interpretations of Federal law and helped to create a situation in which, at length, no timber cutting at all could occur because of litigation, and still environmentalists believed that the long-term concerns of the environment were not being addressed.
The plan is more difficult than I had thought it would be in terms of the size of the timber cuts, in part because during this process the amount of timber actually in the forests and available for cutting was revised downward sharply, in no small measure because of years of overcutting, and in a way that provides an annual yield smaller than timber interests had wanted, and a plan without some of the protections that environmentalists had sought. I can only say that as with every other situation in life, we have to play the hand we were dealt. Had this crisis been dealt with years ago, we might have a plan with a higher yield and with more environmentally protected areas. We are doing the best we can with the facts as they now exist in the Pacific Northwest.
I believe the plan is fair and balanced. I believe it will protect jobs and offer new job opportunities where they must be found. It will preserve the woodlands, the rivers, the streams that make the Northwest an attractive place to live and to visit. We believe in this case it is clear that the Pacific Northwest requires both a healthy economy and a healthy environment and that one cannot exist without the other.
I want to say a special word of thanks to the Vice President, to the Interior Secretary, Bruce Babbitt, to Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, to Labor Secretary Reich, Commerce Secretary Brown, Environmental Protection Administrator Browner, Environmental Policy Director Katie McGinty, and many others in our administration who worked together to bring all the forces of the Federal Government into agreement, not because they all agreed on every issue at every moment but because they knew that we owed the people of the Pacific Northwest at least a unified Federal position that would break the logjam of the past several years.
This shows that people can work together and make tough choices if they have the will and courage to do so. Too often in the past the issues which this plan addressed have simply wound up in court while the economy, the environment, and the people suffered. These issues are clearly difficult and divisive; you will see that in the response to the position that our administration has taken. If they were easy they would have been answered long ago. The main virtue of our plan, besides being fair and balanced, is that we attempt to answer the questions and let people get on with their lives. We could not, we could not permit more years of the status quo to continue, where everything was paralyzed in the courts.
We reached out to hundreds of people, from lumber workers and fishermen to environmentalists, scientists, business people, community leaders, and Native American tribes. We've worked hard to balance all their interests and to understand their concerns. We know that our solutions will not make everybody happy. Indeed, they may not make anybody happy. But we do understand that we're all going to be better off if we act on the plan and end the deadlock and divisiveness.
We started bringing people together at the Forest Conference in April. In the words of Archbishop Thomas Murphy then, we began to find common ground for the common good. As people reasoned together in a conference room instead of confronting each other in a courtroom, they found at least that they shared common values: work and family, faith and a reverence for the majestic beauty of the natural environment God has bequeathed to that gifted part of our Nation.
This plan meets the standards that I set as the conference concluded. It meets the need for year-round, high-wage, high-skilled jobs and a sustained, predictable level of economic activity in the forests. It protects the long-term health of the forests, our wildlife, and our waterways. It is clearly scientifically sound, ecologically credible, and legally defensible.
By preserving the forests and setting predictable and sustainable levels of timber sales, it protects jobs not just in the short term but for years to come. We offer new assistance to workers and to families for job training and retraining where that will inevitably be needed as a result of the sustainable yield level set in the plan, new assistance to businesses and industries to expand and create new family-wage jobs for local workers, new assistance to communities to build the infrastructure to support new and diverse sources of economic growth, and new initiatives to create jobs by investing in research and restoration in the forests themselves. And we end the subsidies for log exports that end up exporting American jobs.
This plan offers an innovative approach to conservation, protecting key watersheds and the most valuable of our old-growth forests. It protects key rivers and streams while saving the most important groves of ancient trees and providing habitat for salmon and other endangered species. And it establishes new adapted management areas to develop new ways to achieve economic and ecological goals and to help communities to shape their own future.
Today I am signing a bill sponsored by Senator Patty Murray and Congresswoman Jolene Unsoeld of Washington and supported by the entire Northwest congressional delegation to restore the ban of export of raw logs from State-owned lands and other publicly owned lands. This act alone will save thousands of jobs in the Northwest, including over 6,000 in Washington State alone.
Today Secretary Babbitt and Secretary Espy are going to the Northwest to talk to State and local officials about how to implement the plan and give to workers, companies, and communities the help they need and deserve. And soon we will deliver an environmental impact statement based on the plan to the Federal District Court in Washington State. We will do all we can to resolve the legal actions that have halted timber sales, and we will continue to work with all those who share our commitment to achieve these goals and move the sales forward.
Together we can build a better future for the families of the Northwest, for their children, and for their children's children. We can preserve the jobs in the forest, and we can preserve the forest. The time has come to act to end the logjam, to end the endless delay and bickering, and to restore some genuine security and rootedness to the lives of the people who have for too long been torn from pillar to post in this important area of the United States. I believe this plan will do that, and this administration is committed to implementing it.
Thank you very much.
NOTE: The President spoke at 10:34 a.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. H.R. 2343, approved July 1, was assigned Public Law No. 103-45.
William J. Clinton, Remarks Announcing the Forest Conservation Plan Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/220863