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Mail Tribune editorials

Salvage logging for schools sounds good, but it's far from workable

There's a lot to be said for thinking outside of the box. Some of the world's greatest inventions, most spectacular concepts and most stunning discoveries have come from people who dared to look beyond established boundaries.

Less publicized, but much more numerous, are the outside-of-the-box ideas that fall short or never get off the ground in the first place. We suspect that will be the fate of a proposal to fund schools through salvage logging in wildfire areas.

The idea is being pushed by Jackson County Commissioner Ric Holt, who is well known for his, ahem, outside-of-the-box thinking. We'll give him credit for trying, but no points on the practicality scale.

Holt's proposal calls for the federal government to transfer to area schools or to the state its rights to fees resulting from the salvage harvest of burned trees in the areas hit by this summer's fires. The money would help offset a state budget shortfall of more than &

36;1 billion that has resulted in major cuts to school districts.

The idea is attractive. Despite environmentalists' arguments to the contrary, we believe salvage logging can be both economically sound and environmentally safe. It would provide local jobs in an economy that's currently scraping along near the bottom of the barrel. It would reduce the pressure to log green trees and, of course, it would help schools at a time they desperately need it.

But, before we go spending that money, let's take a reality check. Salvage logging is a red flag to environmentalists and a bureaucratic nightmare to federal agencies and timber companies. Just the words salvage logging alone prompt thoughts of other words ' words like draft environmental impact statement, appeal and lawsuit.

Salvage logging is difficult to pull off under normal circumstances. Environmental groups oppose the efforts to cut burned trees because they say the logging activity only further damages fragile soils in fire areas and adds to erosion and runoff. Efforts to salvage log federal lands hit by the 2001 Quartz fire area were unsuccessful, largely because the environmental concerns made appeals likely and costs exorbitant.

This salvage proposal complicates an already complicated situation, by adding another layer ' the federal fee transfer ' to the process. We suspect that by the time the various federal agencies finishes analyzing the plan and dealing with environmental impact statements and appeals, what was left of the burned trees would be useful only as mulch.

We also suspect that school officials, who already have a hornet's nest of problems on their hands, would not be eager to add timber salvage to their lists.

This unconventional idea was perhaps worth a trial balloon. But the sharp edge of reality will keep that balloon from flying far.

A strong opening

He's the first significant piece of community art in downtown Medford for a quarter-century, and city officials feel he's the perfect beginning for Medford's new program to bring art in the public.

We refer to the life-sized bronze of a man leaning over a game of chess in Vogel Park. An open seat across from the man, plus two similar tables with marble chess tops and chairs, invite participation by the public.

We, too, think the sculpture is a good beginning for Medford's community arts program. Interim parks and recreation director Tom Hilton says the sculpture is a good fit with the city's vision of art in public places.

We agree wholeheartedly. The chess player shows that art is very much alive in Medford.