“Healthy Forests” Becomes Law While Endangered Species Rules Are Relaxed

President Bush signed his “Healthy Forests” initiative into law yesterday, a move that, never mind the name, left many environmentalists feeling sick. The Bush administration says the law will prevent fires by increasing the amount of logging permissible in forests, especially near populated areas, but enviros say the measure amounts to a holiday gift for the timber industry. The president further undermined his credibility among environmentalists by simultaneously adopting a rule that would remove protections for endangered species to speed forest-thinning projects. The federal Endangered Species Act requires all federal agencies to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service before proceeding with thinning projects — but the new rule would allow federal biologists to unilaterally decide that no endangered species would be affected by a proposed project.