Following the blueprint for charter schools, which seek to bypass the bureaucracy of public schools and enhance local control, the Bush administration will ask Congress to approve a new system of “charter forests.” The forests would be federally owned, but managed by a local trust. In other words, certain parts of existing national forests would no longer be administered by the U.S. Forest Service. Mark Rey, the Department of Agriculture undersecretary in charge of the Forest Service, says the plan wouldn’t favor any particular activity — like, say, logging — but environmentalists are wary. Some point to Rey’s past as a timber industry lobbyist, some to the Bush administration’s attempts to dismantle the Clinton-era “roadless rule,” and some say the whole plan is just a way to dodge thorny environmental problems rather than solve them.

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