Bush Administration Issues Record of Decision on National Forest Planning Rules
New regulations not likely to meet court scrutiny; Conservation groups may return to court
Trent Orr, Earthjustice, (510) 550-6700
Tim Preso, Earthjustice , (406) 586-9699, ext. 24
The U.S. Forest Service has released the final Record of Decision in an attempt to reinstate the Bush administration’s 2005 National Forest Management Act planning regulations that had been previously invalidated by a federal court.
The Bush rule sought to remove key environmental protections governing the 193-million-acre National Forest System. Regulations issued in 2005 sought to overhaul the land-management planning process for national forests by eliminating mandatory protections for wildlife and clean water, and mandatory limits on timber harvesting. These regulations also sharply reduced public participation in decisions about the management of our public forests. Among the measures the Bush administration attempted to discard was a key regulatory guarantee of wildlife viability in the national forests that had been in place since the Reagan administration.
Statement by Trent Orr, attorney for Earthjustice who represented a coalition that challenged the 2005 forest planning regulations:
“This new decision is simply a renewed attempt to dodge accountability by adopting standardless rules with no consideration of the loss of wildlife and other environmental damage that would occur in the national forests with the elimination of longstanding protections. This is the Bush administration’s parting gift to the timber industry, regulations that remove vital checks and balances on logging while minimizing the role of science and the public’s say in maintaining wildlife and other natural resources. We will be headed back to court to challenge this new proposal, where we will fight to insure that the Forest Service protects these invaluable resources and allows full public review of and participation in its decisions about how our national forests will be managed.”
The National Forest Management Act requires the Forest Service to protect wildlife in the national forests and to allow citizens to participate fully in management decisions. The Bush rules invalidated the 1982 standards for national forest management instituted by Ronald Reagan that protected species and required public review of the environmental impacts of proposed national forest plans governing timber harvest levels and natural resource protection.
The court’s invalidation of the Bush administration’s prior attempt to change these rules was a strong signal that full public involvement in decisions regarding their public forests must be restored.
Earthjustice represented Defenders of Wildlife, The Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club and Vermont Natural Resources Council in the legal challenge to the Bush administration’s 2005 rule changes.
Original decision by Judge Phyllis Hamilton issued 3/30/07 (PDF)
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