For Immediate Release, December 17, 2009
Contact: Marc Fink, Center for Biological Diversity, (218) 525-3884
After Three Failed Attempts, Forest Service Embarks on Fourth Drafting of
National Planning Rules That Could Have Major Impact on Wildlife
More Than 100 Groups Urge Independent Scientific Input
WASHINGTON— The U.S. Forest Service today announced its intent to develop new regulations to implement the National Forest Management Act of 1976, a rule that will govern all regional forest plans and site-specific projects – such as timber sales, livestock grazing, and road construction – throughout the entire 193-million-acre national forest system. Federal courts ruled against the agency’s attempts in 2000, 2005, and 2008 to revise its original 1982 rule.
Conservationists challenged the earlier rules because they weakened mandatory protections provided by the 1982 rule, including requirements to safeguard fish and wildlife species and enforceable management standards. The Forest Service’s unlawful argument, throughout the near decade of litigation over these rules, has been that national regulations have no impact on the environment because they only establish procedures for later decisions.
Today’s announcement by the agency initiates a process to develop a fourth rule and clarifies the agency’s choice, in the interim, to rely on the transition provision of the 2000 rule. Yesterday the Center for Biological Diversity and more than 100 other organizations sent a letter to the Forest Service urging it to convene an independent committee of scientists to provide scientific oversight over the agency’s development of new planning regulations.
“Climate disruption demands that the Forest Service stop trying to weasel out from under laws and embrace a new era of scientifically sound planning, ecosystem protection, and public accountability,” said Marc Fink, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity who helped to represent the conservation groups in the earlier cases. “Doing so will require real conservation leadership from the Obama administration.”
The Forest Service will initiate a 60-day public comment period on its new planning effort upon publication of a notice in the Federal Register on Friday, December 18. The new rule will likely take a minimum of two years to complete, and during the interim, the Forest Service is only required to “consider” the best available science for proposed site-specific projects. “During this transition period, which has now been going on for close to a decade, the Forest Service is falling far short of its statutory duty to provide for the diversity of fish and wildlife species on our national forests,” said Fink.