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U.S. funds for logging study suspended
The Associated Press
GRANTS PASS, Ore. — A federal agency has suspended funding for the final year of a study out of Oregon State University that raised questions about whether logging is the best way to restore national forests burned by wildfires, further inflaming a debate over how to treat the millions of acres of national forest that burn each year.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) acknowledged Monday it asked OSU whether the three-year study led by graduate student Daniel Donato and published last month in the journal Science violated provisions of a $300,000 federal fire-research grant that prohibits using any of the funds to lobby Congress and requires that a BLM scientist be consulted before the research is published.
"We are not questioning the data or the science" but rather whether researchers strictly followed provisions of the grant, said BLM Oregon spokesman Chris Strebig.
The study, which found salvage logging killed naturally regenerated seedlings and increased, in the short term, the amount of fuel on the ground to feed future fires, was embraced by environmentalists fighting a House bill to speed salvage logging on national forests after wildfires and other disasters.
After the study came out, OSU Dean of Forestry Hal Salwasser expressed regret when it was revealed that some professors had tried to get Science to delay publication while they produced arguments against it.
Among them was John Sessions, lead author of a report that pressed the U.S. Forest Service to expand salvage logging to speed regeneration after the 2002 Biscuit fire in southwest Oregon.
Salwasser has testified in favor of the salvage logging bill.
Because the College of Forestry receives some of its funding from the timber industry and a tax on logging, questions were raised about the professors' motives.
Andy Stahl, executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, characterized BLM's actions as censorship, initiated because the study "threatens one of the long-held myths of forestry, and that is that only man can create a forest, not nature."
"It sends a chilling message to all researchers. If you don't get the right answer, you don't get the money," Stahl said.
Science magazine editor-in-chief Donald Kennedy, a former president of Stanford University, said it was the journal's fault that legislation was mentioned in a summary of the study.
That summary only appeared in supplemental material posted online, not the article itself. The researchers had asked them to take it out, but the editors failed to do it.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company