White House Said To Want Forests Thinned

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) -- The Bush administration plans to double efforts to thin fire-prone Western forests and will emphasize the cutting of trees that can be sold to help pay for the work, Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey said.

Along with increased thinning, the administration wants to reform the Endangered Species Act, streamline national forest management and give states more power in managing roadless areas, said Rey, who directs the nation's forest policy.

But Rey, speaking Thursday at the annual meeting of the Intermountain Forest Association, did not offer any details on exactly what type of Endangered Species Act reforms the president would support.

Last week the administration proposed cutting 80 percent of the federally designated critical habitat for threatened and endangered salmon in the Northwest.

``We're going to be active,'' Rey told the private gathering of about 75 Idaho political leaders and timber company officials. ``We're nowhere near the end of what we want to do.''

Since Bush took office in 2000, there has been a fourfold increase in the amount of national forest acreage treated to prevent wildfire. Last year about 4 million acres were treated with prescription burning or mechanical thinning, and the president wants to double that amount over the next couple of years, Rey said.

A majority of the thinned trees will be sold to sawmills, fuel pellet plants or biomass electricity generators, Rey said.