Today, the Obama administration’s Forest Service revealed final rules for managing of our national forests. These rules typically last 15-30 years, and they serve as the blueprint for how 193 million acres of our most important watersheds are managed. Their impact is sweeping.
My own memories from time spent in national forests remind me of why Earthjustice’s fight for strong protections is so important. Whether it was hiking and camping with my younger brother in the Monongahela National Forest of West Virginia or touring the Custer and Gallatin national forests in Montana with my family, my time in the forests will remain among my best memories.
Although we were just a couple hours from the big city by car, it seemed like we were a world away. The jaw-dropping views, clear piney air, crystalline streams, and glimpses of precious and rare wildlife gave us perspective on what’s at stake for our country, for our people and wild places, and for future generations.
My family is among millions of Americans who visit national forests – whether for hiking, camping, touring, fishing, or outdoor recreation. Even more Americans, however, rely on these forests for their drinking water – 124 million to be precise. Our national forests are the nation’s single largest source of clean drinking water.
That’s why Earthjustice has been working to ensure that the rules governing the national forest system are strong enough to safeguard our water and wildlife.
Earthjustice worked in a broad coalition of national, regional and local groups to urge the administration to make this forest plan as strong as possible. We sent the Obama administration and Forest Service more than 300,000 letters and comments calling for better water and wildlife protections than those proposed.
Thankfully, the Forest Service heard the American people and revealed a final proposal today that makes great improvements in protecting these most vital forest resources.
Today’s plan shows that the Forest Service is looking at the forest and its waters in a new, holistic and sustainable way, by treating the causes rather than just the symptoms. This is a victory for all Americans.
Unfortunately, there is some bad news in the rule, as well. The rule’s wildlife safeguards simply don’t go far enough in protecting America’s wildlife – leaving many species too vulnerable at a time when challenges such as mining pollution, logging, construction, road-building, and climate change are already imperiling their survival.
Read our full statement on today’s release here.
It’s a tough pill to swallow when we know so many species are already facing challenges that they might not be able to survive. But the good news is that we still have time to strengthen the rule. In the next day or so, the Forest Service will be opening itself up for another public comment period (30 days) before this planning rule is absolutely final. Now that we have seen that this agency does take our public comments to heart, we must urge them to go the final distance and strengthen these wildlife protections. Stay tuned — we’ll post the info on how to submit a comment when it becomes available in the next day or so.