Earth Day Statement by Marty Hayden, Earthjustice Vice President of Policy and Legislation:
"Americans have worked for decades to save what little remains of the cathedral groves of towering old-growth trees that once graced our nation's forests. Today the Bush administration is striving to squander our children's natural heritage in order to line the pockets of the timber industry.
On January 29, the Bush Administration's plan to drop Alaska's magnificent Tongass Rainforest from the landmark Roadless Area Conservation Rule went into effect. Their action paves the way for some 50 new old-growth timber sales in pristine areas of the world's largest remaining temperate rainforest. To minimize public awareness of this unpopular decision, it was first publicly announced on the day before Christmas Eve. In March, Undersecretary Mark Rey testified before Congress that the administration's proposal to rewrite the roadless rule for National Forests in the lower-48 states might be unveiled this spring.
Just last month, the Administration finalized two additional proposals that aim to make it easier to log more old-growth in western Washington, Oregon and northern California. The first decision seeks to gut protections for salmon under the Northwest Forest Plan, known as the Aquatic Conservation Strategy. The second attempts to eliminate the Plan's protections for rare and uncommon species, known as the survey and manage standards. By essentially eliminating these protections for salmon and rare species, the administration has adopted a "Don't Ask–Don't Tell" approach when it comes to logging old growth in the Pacific Northwest.
There are currently 188 planned or active timber sales that target old-growth and mature forests in areas covered by the Northwest Forest Plan. All told, these logging projects will impact 88,600 acres of our federal public forests.
All of these decisions are also examples of an increasingly familiar tactic used by this administration: back room settlements of lawsuits against conservation measures brought by the timber industry and other logging proponents. The elimination of roadless protections for the Tongass, for example, were at the heart of the "settlement" reached between the administration and the State of Alaska ( the Alaska Forestry Association was an intervenor-plaintiff in the case) after negotiations between Agriculture Undersecretary and former timber industry lobbyist Mark Rey, and Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski -- Mr. Rey's former boss and lead sponsor for his current USDA position.
The administration's decisions on the Northwest Forest Plan also trace back to specific demands by the timber industry, which suggested a "global framework" for settling their lawsuits to achieve five sweeping changes to the Plan: 1) Eliminate the requirement that timber sales must protect salmon habitat; 2) eliminate the survey and manage program; 3) weaken northern spotted owl Endangered Species Act protections; 4) weaken marbled murrelet Endangered Species Act protections and 5) weaken ecosystem and species protections on BLM O&C lands.
The administration settled four industry lawsuits that set the stage for granting the timber industry all five of their wishes. Meanwhile, Mark Rutzick, lead attorney for the timber industry in the litigation and settlement negotiations, has been appointed as a senior advisor to the general counsel of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with responsibility for Pacific salmon protected under the Endangered Species Act.
We're only four months in to 2004, and already the Bush administration has managed to whittle away several key protections for our remaining old-growth forests. This Earth Day, celebrate by hugging an old-growth tree, and urge the Bush administration to stop gutting protections for our national forests, so that our children will have trees to hug in the future."