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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

This Swing State is Swinging At Me

Posted by Seamus

I have been meaning for a while to write on this but I've been noticeably absent from political blogs these past two months. I have been caught up with my life's work which has apparently landed me in the middle of swing state politics. I work for a non-partisan organization so my job is to keep above the partisan fray while doing my job - which just so happens to be working to protect a national forest in a swing state. This is more of a swing state story than an analysis but I thought it would be interesting nonetheless.

It all started on Earth Day. We had no special plans and were just plugging away as usual when we get a call. It seems that President Bush had planned two major events (that I know of) for Earth Day in 2004. Bush was directly involved in one such event in Maine. I don't recall the specifics. For the other, he sent his Secretary of Agriculture to Pennsylvania to promote logging in the state's only national forest.

I cannot tell you fur sure this is by design but its definitely true that the Bush Administration has made frequent trips to Western Pennsylvania - primarily in Pittsburgh. And I know its debatable what kind of influence the environment will have on this years election. And throughout the next few weeks I almost entirely cut myself out of the partisan political scene because I was engaged in my non-partisan work.

First, a co-worker attempted to join the tour of the national forest logging sites being given by the US Forest Service for Veneman's stump speech. The Secretary and company were gathered at a recently logged "Healthy Forests Initiative" site. He pulled in and was greeted by Forest Service Law Enforcement. He was quickly he could not stand on public lands and listen to Veneman's speech and if he tried he would be arrested.

A shit-storm hits. Having effectively ruined our rabid Congressman's visit he promptly follows a week later with a press release - attacking us. Why the delayed attack? Well, it turns out the swing state stump speeches aren't over. Next trip - US Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth. Once again the Chief is pushing "Healthy Forests Initiative" logging in our national forest. And this time they don't threaten arrest but we do learn some salient facts - such as the fact that this will be the second largest logging project in this forest ever (we're in court over the largest right now).

The full force of the Bush Administration's "Healthy Forests Initiative" is now upon us (and no, I can't not put that in quotes). And stepping away from my day job I can't wonder what this means in an important swing state. Most of the logging has not commenced but will be in full force by summer's end. This could very well generate a lot of press.

And there does appear to be broader recognition of the political importance of this part of the state despite our small populations. Governor Rendell has made several trips up here this year and I don't think its a coincidence. He has on one hand praised a local timber company (based in Oregon) and on the other been promoting tourism. No question, there is a political game here. So what will it be?

Posted at 11:01 AM in Pennsylvania | Technorati