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Smith committee told less logging could boost global warming

Mail Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON ­ Careless logging is typically cited as one reason forthe decline of salmon populations in the Pacific Northwest.

But on Thursday, a scientist explored the novel idea that too littlelogging could also hurt the salmon. The salmon issue was the latest twistin hearings convened by Rep. Bob Smith, R-Ore., hearings that have exploredbroader national and global effects of curtailed logging in the Northwest.

Smith, who chairs the House Agriculture Committee, is holding the hearingsin preparation for writing legislation to address controversial foresthealth issues.

Scientist Victor Kaczynski told the panel that the Pacific Northwestsalmon could be extinct by the year 2020 because of global warming. Whilelogging is typically blamed for the decline of the salmon, Kaczynski saidthe failure to harvest timber may also have an effect.

The reason: Production of steel and concrete as a substitute for timberreleases pollutants that cause global warming.

The extent to which this substitution causes problems for salmon is aquestion that experts on forests need to answer, Kaczynski said.

Smith was flabbergasted by Kaczynski's theory.

It makes you wonder if Mr. Gore was right, Smith said witha chuckle.

Vice President Al Gore's book Earth in the Balance predictsdire consequences from global warming, a phenomenon driven by the burningof fossil fuels. Gore's tome is widely derided by conservatives like Smith,who see it as unbalanced and anti-growth.

Kaczynski said fishery scientists in Japan and British Columbia havefound that ocean temperatures have been rising since 1976. And as they rise,young salmon have moved north, squeezing into ever-smaller habitat thatsupports fewer fish.

If the warming trend continues, all salmon from California, Oregon,Idaho, Washington, British Columbia and from southeast to southwest Alaskawill become extinct, he said.

The hearings have generally been building a record that favors activelymanaging federal forests through selective logging, controlled burning andother means. Such management is needed, witnesses have said, to restorethe quality of degraded forests, reduce the risk of catastrophic fire, provideneeded resources and protect species.

Eventually, Smith plans to write a bill addressing these issues. However,environmentalists have been skeptical of the hearings. They say the foresthealth issue is simply being used to justify increased logging, which willhurt the forests and species such as the salmon and spotted owl.