Bush Again Favors Timber and Oil Industry; Proposes Weakened National Forest Management Regs

Bush Administration Again Favors Timber and Oil Industry By Proposing Weakened National Forest Management Regulations
New regulations would severely weaken wildlife, water quality and other environmental protections

WASHINGTON, DC – April 10 – Today the Bush administration released its latest forest planning regulations, which are as flawed as the ones overturned by a federal court last year. The Forest Service’s new planning rules contain almost all of the same problems as the agency’s 2005 regulations that were struck down less than a year ago in a legal victory for conservation organizations. Both the 2005 regulatory changes and these latest changes seek to turn the strict forest-planning standards established in 1982 by the Reagan administration into virtually meaningless suggestions, making it easier for industry to log, mine, and drill national forests with little to no regard for impacts on wildlife and the land.

“America’s national forests are the source of much of the country’s water supplies, wildlife and wide open spaces, and they should be managed for the overall public interest. That requires a balance between conserving and utilizing resources, not the single-minded pursuit of economic profit,” said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife. “Today the Bush administration has unwisely come down on the side of industry by trotting out yet another version of national forest regulations written specifically for logging, mining and oil and gas industries.”

The Bush administration’s 2005 forest planning rules were challenged in court by Defenders of Wildlife and other conservation groups. In March 2007, a federal district court judge in San Francisco ruled that the Forest Service had failed to consider the environmental impacts of the far-reaching regulatory changes proposed in those regulations, neglected to offer the public an opportunity to comment on the changes, and did not adequately consider the impacts the changes would have on endangered species. As a result of this ruling, the administration was required to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on how the new regulations would impact wildlife and overall environmental integrity.

The Bush administration’s latest proposed regulations continue to violate key environmental laws, forcing Defenders of Wildlife and other conservation organizations to consider going back to court to challenge the latest changes. Although the Forest Service went through the motions of analyzing the environmental impacts of the new rules in an EIS, it continues to assert that forest plans have no effect upon the environment, and its environmental review therefore fails to properly analyze the impacts of the new rules on wildlife and other environmental factors. In addition, the new regulations fly in the face of a federal forest management law that requires the national forests to be managed under binding standards to limit timber harvesting and other extractive uses and to ensure the protection of other resources, including wildlife and native plants, water quality and recreation.

“The Bush administration is trying to reverse decades of progress in managing national forests without considering the impacts on wildlife and the environment,” said Schlickeisen. “This rule turns back the clock to a time when the country thought natural resources were limitless and conservation was barely an afterthought. We live in a very different world today—a much more enlightened world in which the American people understand the importance of protecting our dwindling resources to maintain our economy and way of life, for ourselves and future generations. Once again, however, the Bush administration is choosing to ignore the opinions of the American people, opting instead to bend the rules for the timber industry and oil companies.”

Learn more about Defenders’ work to protect America’s national forests.

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.  With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come.  For more information, visit www.defenders.org.

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