GRAND RAPIDS (AP) -- A U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing in this northeastern Minnesota city later this week could turn into a trip to the woodshed for the U.S. Forest Service.
Friday's hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Forest and Public Land Management was set up to discuss cleanup after last year's Fourth of July windstorm.
But U.S. Sen. Rod Grams, who called for the hearing and whose office invited the speakers, said he expects it to cover a broad range of forest policy issues.
Grams, R-Minn., faces re-election this fall and is a longtime critic of federal land management. He made it clear that he thinks there should be more logging and less government regulation in national forests.
The invitation to the hearing issued by his campaign office reads: ''Don't allow radical environmentalists to destroy the traditions and heritage of northern Minnesota! If you hunt, fish, snowmobile, ride an ATV or just enjoy public land, attending this hearing is critical.''
Forest Service officials aren't sure what to expect at the hearing.
''We're preparing for some tough questions,'' said Dennis Neitzke, storm recovery leader for the Superior National Forest.
Grams' vocal stand against Forest Service policy has won him scattered support in remote areas of what is usually a DFL stronghold. For example, Orr mayor and logger Dave Glowaski has already publicly endorsed Grams' re-election. Glowaski has been invited to speak at Friday's hearing and is expected to criticize Forest Service timber harvest policy.
Officially, the hearing is listed as ''oversight hearing on the July 4, 1999, blowdown in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and other National Forest Lands'' on the subcommittee's schedule.
''The reason for the hearing was supposed to be to talk about the blowdown. That's what's timely, that's what's before Congress right now,'' said Adam Sokolski, outreach coordinator for Friends of the Boundary Waters. ''But the witness list is filled with OHV (off-highway vehicle) and snowmobile groups and the timber industry. What does any of that have to do with the blowdown?''
Sokolski said, ''He's playing politics and trying to divide the Iron Range.''
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