For Immediate Release, May 8, 2007
Greta Anderson (520) 623-5252 x 314
Marc Fink (218) 525-3884
Message to the Forest Service: Proceed With Caution
TUCSON, Ariz.– The Center for Biological Diversity has sent the Forest Service a letter letting the agency know that it is being monitored for violations of a recent court order. The court decision stated that the 2005 Forest Planning regulations were illegal and prohibited the Forest Service from implementing them. The Center’s letter tells the agency’s southwestern forester not to proceed, in letter or in spirit, under these now-invalid rules.
The Center was party to the lawsuit that overturned the 2005 planning rules and wants the Forest Service to revert to the 1982 regulations, which include full environmental reviews and specific standards and guidelines regarding forest protection, motorized route densities, grazing utilization, and wildlife habitat. Though there was room for improvement even in the 1982 regulations, they were far better than the new rules, which would have resulted in vague and general forest plans lacking clear management direction.
“The 2005 rules were explicitly designed to remove firm management standards that limit extractive use,” said Greta Anderson, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Our national forests were set aside to protect wildlife habitat, watershed health, air quality, and a sense of open space. The 2005 rules ignored this prioritization, so the courts sent the agency back to the drawing board.”
While the Forest Service scrambles to try to fix the industry-friendly regulations, there is apparently some confusion within the agency regarding which rules to plan under. “The court deemed the 2005 regulations illegal. If a forest is going to proceed with planning at all, it should do so under the 1982 regulations,” said Marc Fink, an attorney with the Center. “The agency has over 20 years of experience planning with the 1982 regulations, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to revert to using them.”
Thus far in the southwest region, only the forests in Arizona have been undergoing plan revision. This has entailed several rounds of public meetings and the soliciting of public comments, but has not yet resulted in any planning documents. The recent court decision requires the Forest Service to prepare a new National Environmental Policy Act analysis, consult with expert agencies, and accept additional public comment on the 2005 regulations before they can be used.
Copies of the letter to the regional forester and the recent court order may be found at: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/programs/forests/revisions/index.html
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 35,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.