Under pressure from environmentalists, President Clinton called Saturday for repeal of legislation he signed last summer opening the way for logging thousands of acres of prized, old-growth trees in national forests.
It was an election-year turnabout for Clinton in a state crucial to his hopes for winning a second term. The so-called salvage logging provision was part of a budget bill that Clinton reluctantly accepted. The administration now says it did not anticipate the broad sweep of exemptions under the bill.The issue has become an urgent concern among environmentalists. Clinton announced his position at the last stop on a trip financed by his re-election campaign through California and Washington state.
"We believe there should be a repeal of cutting in ancient, old-growth forests," White House press secretary Mike McCurry said. He said the administration will ask Congress either for replacement timber allocations for companies with valid contracts to cut in old-growth forests, or buyout authority to stop the cut-ting.
The timber provision, suspending most environmental safeguards in national forests, was promoted as a way of culling dead trees and fire-prone underbrush. But thousands of prized, healthy trees also are being targeted for commercial cutting.
Environmentalists have charged the provision is a bonanaza for the timber industry and threatens severe ecological damage to public forests from coast to coast.
In Seattle, Clinton appeared with Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, who announced a corporate gift of more than $10 million in software and technical assistance to 32 community colleges across the state.
"We must get violence out of our schools and we must put discipline and learning back in our schools," the president said.