Three days before Christmas, the Bush administration announced that it’s making the biggest overhaul to forest-management rules in some three decades. The news made the front page of today’s New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, etc. — but ya gotta know it’ll slip by unnoticed by a great many folks stuck in whited-out airports in the Midwest and teeming malls everywhere else.  

It’s been a while since the Bushies pulled one of these announce-an-environmental-abomination-when-no-one’s-looking stunts, but they returned to the tactic with a real doozy this time.  

“A key wildlife protection that has governed federal forest management for more than two decades will be dropped under new regulations announced Wednesday by the Bush administration, and requirements for public involvement in planning for the country’s 192 million acres of national forest will be dramatically altered,” write Bettina Boxall and Lisa Getter in the L.A. Times.  They continue:  

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[E]nvironmentalists and former Clinton administration officials said the new rules in effect diminish public participation in the management of public lands and give forest managers more leeway to open them to increased logging and gas and oil development.

“This is the most dramatic change in national forest management policy since passage of the [1976] National Forest Management Act,” said Jim Lyons, who oversaw the Forest Service as Agriculture undersecretary during the Clinton administration. “It is really a clandestine effort in my mind to subvert much of what the national forests stand for.” …

“I’m very fearful that we’ve just lost the foundation for the protection of old-growth forests and wildlife that has protected the national forests for the last 20 years,” said Mike Anderson, senior resources analyst for the Wilderness Society.

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