Reduced logging on national forests does not seem to be a cause for wildfires in the West, says the bipartisan Congressional Research Service. In a study requested by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the service found that if anything, heavy logging in the past may be partially to blame for creating forests more prone to catching fire by removing big trees that act as fire retardants and leaving behind smaller trees and brush that are much more flammable. Over the last month, Republicans in Congress and Texas Gov. George W. Bush have said that reduced logging levels under the Clinton administration have been a cause of rampant wildfires this year. The administration next week is slated to release a plan recommending that controlled burns and thinning be used to manage the 40 million acres of federal forest most at risk of wildfire. Some enviros are wary that major forest cuts could be billed as thinning projects in order to boost logging levels for timber companies.

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