Statement by Earthjustice Legislative Director Marty Hayden:
“Today, we raise 21 chainsaws in salute to the corporate timber interests’ best friend — and our national forests’ worst foe — President George W. Bush.
“The Bush administration has adopted a ‘no tree left behind’ policy when it comes to our national forests. Never in modern times has there been an administration so singly focused on getting fish, wildlife, the public and the law out of the way of commercial timber interests and other extractive industries.
“From undermining wildlife conservation requirements adopted by that radical environmentalist President Ronald Reagan; to adopting broad new exemptions from environmental reviews of logging projects; to proposals to eliminate protections for salmon in the Pacific Northwest; the theme is a constant one: if it gets in the way of cutting trees, it’s out of there.
“Last month, the administration announced major efforts to weaken the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, considered by many to be the greatest forest conservation legacy of our times. The new administration initiatives propose to drop the nation’s two largest national forests, Alaska’s Tongass and Chugach, from the roadless rule and open these protected areas to industrial development. The administration also announced its plans to create a major loophole to allow governors to have national forests in their states dropped from the rule’s protections — turning this legacy for future generations of Americans into a political casualty of the moment.
“Rather than forcing the Forest Service and the BLM to do their fireproofing work adjacent to at-risk communities and providing additional resources to homeowners to ensure protection of their property, the administration is using the emotional issue of wildfire to move a far larger agenda.
“The so-called Healthy Forest Initiative creates a license to steal by allowing the timber industry to design and implement 10-year logging projects and pay themselves in trees. It also abolishes environmental reviews for an unlimited number of 1,000-acre logging projects. The administration is asking Congress to tamper with the courts in an unprecedented way in an attempt to allow illegal logging projects to still be cut.
“Recently, the administration proposed to remove an important check and balance on decisions made by the Forest Service. They want to eliminate the oversight of federal fish and wildlife agencies on Forest Service logging projects that may affect threatened and endangered species. They also want Congress to eliminate the law that allows the public to administratively question Forest Service decisions and instead give former timber industry lobbyist, Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, a blank check to decide what rights the public may have to question agency decisions. This same Undersecretary just issued new rules that attempt to allow the very side-stepping of the appeals process that just last year, a federal judge in Montana ruled violated the law.
“The administration’s proposed rewrite of the National Forest Management Act regulations seeks to undermine a standard for wildlife conservation that was adopted by President Reagan more than 20 years ago. Enforceable standards for maintaining wildlife populations have been a hallmark of these rules since that time, and now the Bush administration is proposing to make these requirements optional.
“Earlier this year, the administration unveiled its proposed overhaul of the Northwest Forest Plan’s Aquatic Conservation Strategy, the result of back-room negotiations with the timber industry. These negotiations were conducted under the guise of settling industry lawsuits, even though the industry had never actually challenged the Aquatic Conservation Strategy in court. The administration is now proposing to abolish the core requirement of the Strategy, which specifies that logging must be conducted in a manner that protects aquatic habitat and keeps the watershed on the path to recovery.
“Under the Bush administration, the timber industry is calling all the shots — leaving fish, wildlife and the American public out in the cold.”