Bush administration puts Forest Service wildlife protections on hold

The Bush administration issued a temporary rule yesterday suspending strict wildlife protections used by national forest managers since 1982. That year, the Reagan administration instructed forest managers in the U.S. Forest Service to maintain “viable populations” of fish and wildlife. Since then, the viability rule has been the basis of several lawsuits forcing the agency to cut back on logging; it is, said Andy Stahl of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, the agency’s “only rule protecting wildlife.” The new temporary rule instructs forest managers that the old rule is “not in effect,” though they may still follow it if they so desire. Administration officials did not say when a final ruling will be made, but many enviros view the temporary rule as a harbinger of similarly grim things to come.