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UNDER CHALLENGE FROM BOTH SIDES, ADMINISTRATION DEFENDS BALANCED FOREST MANAGEMENT PLAN AS SPOTTED OWL TRIAL OPENS IN SEATTLE SEATTLE -- Facing legal challenges from environmental groups and the timber industry against the Clinton Administration's northwest forest management plan, Assistant Attorney General Lois Schiffer travelled to Seattle to present the federal government's opening argument today before the U.S. District Court. The plan has been challenged by numerous environmental groups who seek to halt all logging, as well as by the timber industry, which wants to halt the plan as a step toward expanding logging throughout the federal forests. The suit will affect the management of more than 24 million acres of public land in Washington, Oregon and Northern California that lie within the range of the northern spotted owl, a threatened species. "The Administration's forest management plan offers a balanced way out of the gridlock that has captured Northern California and the Pacific Northwest," said Schiffer. "It is time to move forward." In 1991, logging was brought to a halt in old-growth forest habitat suitable for the northern spotted owl after several organizations sued under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Administration's plan, announced on April 13, 1994, culminated more than a year of interagency planning and led to a court decision June 6 ending the injunctions against logging in the affected areas. The Administration's initiative includes economic relief for those affected by changes in forest management practice, the creation of a science-based natural resources management plan, and unprecedented cooperation among federal agencies. In the five months since the last logging injunction was lifted, more than $126 million in grants has been awarded, 400 restoration projects have put people to work and enhanced selected waterways, and timber sales have been allowed to move forward. Various parties at today's hearing seek to bring the Administration's plan to a halt. Seventeen plaintiffs argue that the administration's plan does not adequately protect the northern spotted owl, including the Seattle Audubon Society, the Forest Conservation Council, Save the West, the Native Forest Council and the Sierra Club. These plaintiffs seek to again halt all logging in the affected regions. The Northwest Forest Resources Council (a coalition of industry groups) and an association of counties in Oregon and California have filed three actions in Washington, D.C. seeking to nullify the plan and alleging that the government violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and various federal land management statutes. Their effort to halt the plan is a step towards seeking to expand the timber harvesting in he affected areas. One of these cases was moved to the District Court in Seattle this summer, and the other two have been stayed pending the outcome of this action. "We have tried to find a middle course," said Schiffer. "We

have tried to protect old growth forests while providing a sustainable timber harvest. The administration's forest plan is comprehensive and broad based. It moves beyond the issue of owls and provides a plan to wisely manage an entire ecosystem for the benefit of people, their jobs, the environment, and all the species that depend on old growth forest -- of which the spotted owl is just one." Schiffer also indicted that the plan represents unprecedented cooperation among federal agencies whose previous planning efforts had been independent and sometimes at odds with each other: the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Five cases were at issue in today's hearing: Seattle Audubon Society v. Lyons, Forest Conservation Council v. Lyons, Save the West v. Lyons, Native Forest Council v. Babbitt, and The Sierra Club v. Espy. In addition, claims raised by the industry win two other cases filed in Washington, D.C. were also heard: Northwest Forest Council v. Thomas and Northwest Resource Council v. Dombeck. ### 94-658