Sunday, June 11, 2006
Republicans put profit ahead of science
Because money talks, even if it is talking bullshit. The LA Times reports on one piece of science that set off a fireworks display among the politically well paid.
Daniel Donato never imagined his work would put him in the crosshairs of Congress. He was just studying how forests grow back after a fire.The few who profit from salvage logging will probably win. Our Dear Embattled Leader and his Republican minions have always put corporations ahead of people. They pay better.
But after his research appeared in the online version of the journal Science in January, the Oregon State University graduate student began to feel like a lightning rod. A federal agency briefly yanked funding for his project, irate politicians and timber interests e-mailed Donato's dean to complain, congressmen grilled him, and professors at his own university tried unsuccessfully to keep the paper from being published in the print edition of Science.
His principal finding — that post-fire logging hindered forest regrowth — was hardly revolutionary. But the study, with Donato as lead author, was published just as Congress was considering legislation to make it easier for timber companies to undertake salvage logging of dead trees after fires on federal land. That bill, backed by the Bush administration and recently passed by the House, is based on an underlying assumption that burned forests recover more quickly if they are logged and then replanted.
Donato's results provided ammunition to the bill's opponents — and more broadly to environmentalists fighting salvage logging, which makes up roughly a third of the timber sales from national forests across the country. They argue that dead trees provide not only wildlife habitat, but the nourishment for a new forest that will ultimately provide a richer, more diverse ecosystem. That is anathema to timber advocates, who see dead wood left to rot unharvested as not only counterproductive but a waste of resources.
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