Shift Would Let Firm Pave Logging Roads
By Karl Vick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 4, 2009; Page A02
LOS ANGELES -- The Bush administration appears poised to push through a change in U.S. Forest Service agreements that would make it far easier for mountain forests to be converted to housing subdivisions.
Mark E. Rey, the former timber lobbyist who heads the Forest Service, last week signaled his intent to formalize the controversial change before the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama. As a candidate, Obama campaigned against the measure in Montana, where local governments have complained of being blindsided by Rey's negotiating the policy shift behind closed doors with the nation's largest private landowner.
The shift is technical but has large implications. It would allow Plum Creek Timber to pave roads through Forest Service land. For decades, such roads were little more than trails used by logging trucks to reach timber stands.
But as Plum Creek has moved into the real estate business, paving those roads became a necessary prelude to opening vast tracts of the company's 8 million acres to the vacation homes that are transforming landscapes across the West.