Scientists Want Logging Restriction

98-04-28 18:03:12 EDT

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hundreds of scientists including renowned chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall urged Congress to place sharp restrictions on logging in America's forests.

Goodall was among more than 600 biologists, ecologists, botanists, zoologists and others who have signed a letter endorsing legislation to ban logging on millions of acres of federal land.

The Democratic legislation was introduced last year and has made little progress in the Republican-controlled Congress. The chief author, Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., said the chorus of support from scientists will give the proposal a boost.

Among the seven scientists who joined Torricelli at a press conference Tuesday was Edward O. Wilson, a Harvard University entomologist who has won two Pulitzer Prizes. He said cutting trees in ancient forests ``drastically imperils a vast array of species.''

``We are indeed at a crossroads,'' Wilson said of the debate in Congress over logging. ``If we take the wrong road, the trauma will be unlike other national traumas that we get over after a period of time.''

Torricelli's bill would ban logging and road-building on 13 million acres of ancient forest, 4 million acres of specially designated areas and about 9 million acres in roadless areas.

Even in areas not covered by the ban, the legislation would outlaw more aggressive methods of logging, including clear-cutting.

``This bill is absolutely historic in that it applies the best scientific knowledge of the day to land management. It's rarely been done before,'' said Gary Meffe, a professor of conservation biology at the University of Florida and editor of the journal Conservation Biology.

A similar bill has been introduced in the House by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.

Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, discounted as ``preposterous'' any fears that current logging practices are endangering animal species.

``The 'scientists' involved in Senator Torricelli's photo op (including E.O. Wilson) are not qualified based upon their research and expertise to evaluate the proper management of the national forests,'' Murkowski said in a prepared statement.