The Obama administration revealed its proposed final rules for managing our country’s expansive National Forest system, which is the single largest source of drinking water in the United States, supplying drinking water to 124 million Americans. These rules will serve as a blueprint for how all of our National Forests are managed, and they can remain in effect for decades—as President Reagan’s 1982 regulations have—so their impact on America’s water and wildlife resources will be sweeping and felt across the nation. The rules are expected to be officially adopted within the next two months.
The following statement is from Earthjustice attorney Kristen Boyles:
“Americans depend on our National Forests for clean drinking water, first and foremost. The Forest Service’s plan for our National Forests is a step forward from past plans in terms of protecting our nation’s critical water resources.
“The Forest Service deserves credit for finally beginning to look at the forest and its waters in a new, holistic and sustainable way, by treating the causes rather than just the symptoms. Though the devil is in the details—in whether its water standards are actually enforceable and measurable, and in how this plan is implemented—the Forest Service is heading in the right direction.
“The Forest Service heard from hundreds of thousands of Americans who wanted strong water safeguards in this plan, and it is clear that they took those public comments seriously and improved the plan’s water safeguards.
“While the plan is an improvement for our nation’s threatened waters, the proposal leaves the fate of many fish and wildlife species uncertain. The Forest Service didn’t meet its intent to ensure the protection of healthy populations of all wildlife species that depend on our National Forests for their survival and well-being. This is frightening because our National Forests are sacred ground, providing core habitat for so many species. They are critical to the survival of our wildlife, and if they are not managed to protect wildlife populations, then we are likely to lose many species.
“We hope that the Forest Service uses these final 30 days of review to strengthen this plan and make sure that it gives adequate protections to wildlife in our National Forests.”