Bush admin overhauls forest management policy

The Bush administration unveiled sweeping changes to federal forest-management policy on Dec. 22, while Americans milled through malls and airports, minds dancing with visions of, well, everything but forest management. The changes will “streamline” approval of forest-management plans by eliminating a key provision, long despised by timber companies, that requires forest managers to maintain “viable populations” of fish and wildlife in the forests. The new policies also instruct managers to give economic activity and ecological health equal priority in management decisions, and remove the requirement for environmental impact statements — effectively eliminating the public-comment process. “This planning rule just makes more efficient and effective use of our field people’s time and energy,” said Rick Cables of the U.S. Forest Service. Enviros don’t agree, and neither does Rep. Tom* Udall (D-N.M.) of the House Resources Committee, who complained that the regulations “cut the public out of the forest planning process, will inspire many more lawsuits, and provide less protection for wildlife.”

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*[Correction, 03 Jan 2005: This summary originally stated that Mark Udall was the Democrat from N.M. who opposed the new policy. In fact, Tom Udall is the representative quoted in the story. Incidentally, Tom and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) are cousins.]

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