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Endangered forests

Spokane -- Of the 10 national forests under the direst threats across the country, two are in the Inland Northwest, according to the National Forest Protection Alliance, an environmental umbrella organization.

The two Inland Northwest national forests winning that dubious distinction are the Clearwater in North Idaho, and the Gifford Pinchot in Washington's south central Cascades.

The Alliance named those two forests and eight others in its recently released report, "America's 10 Most Endangered National Forests."

"We're hoping it draws attention and puts the spotlight on these forests," says Mike Petersen, director of the Lands Council in Spokane, and also president of the Alliance.

The threats to Idaho's Clearwater National Forest are high-elevation logging and road building, which have impaired water quality and fish habitat, according to the Alliance's report.

Two timber sales in the Clearwater -- the North Lochsa Face and the Middle Black -- rank as the largest Forest Service timber operations in the lower 48 states, the reports says. Their combined cut is estimated at 175 million board feet, or 35,000 logging trucks full of trees.

Named after the father of modern American forestry, Gifford Pinchot National Forest also faces risks from logging, mostly of old growth timber. Logging there has stumped 2,500 acres of old-growth forest in the last four years, the report charges. Clearcut logging scars the landscape, and its attendant road building is "posing serious threats to bull trout, salmon and steelhead runs," the Alliance writes.

Lumberjacks haven't yet revved up their saws for the two large logging operations named in the Alliance's report on the Clearwater, notes Elaine Murphy, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service's Clearwater office.

Forestry officials are still preparing environmental impact statements for those timber sales, she says. "Certainly, no decision has been made on that project."

The mayor's budget

Spokane -- Mayor John Powers has kept his promise to double human services spending, increasing the city's grants to social service groups by half a million dollars.

That's one example of Powers' reshuffling of city priorities in his proposed 2002 budget, which he presented to the city council Monday. The $119 million general fund budget also includes $50,000 to fund renewed Saturday hours at the downtown library, and establishes a reserve fund for the city of $3.5 million.

Powers' proposed budget would decrease property taxes slightly, but would raise city utility rates by 3 percent -- about $1.50 per month on average. City employees won't get raises under his budget, but Powers has asked for $90,500 more for his office -- a request sure to raise eyebrows on the City Council.

The budget is now the council's hands. They will meet for one or more working sessions in the next month to hammer out a final plan.

Meanwhile, Spokane citizens can read through the entire budget at any library branch. Starting Nov. 12 and until Dec. 3, citizens can also put in their two cents about the budget at public hearings during the council's Monday night meetings.
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