The Bush administration has been discreetly gutting environmental protections by encouraging industry groups to sue over rules and then settling those lawsuits on terms favorable to industry, enviros argue. Using such tactics, the administration has allowed more logging in Northwest forests, curtailed protections for roadless lands and potential wilderness areas in the West, and reopened national parklands to snowmobiles. “In the guise of settling lawsuits, federal officials have retired to the backroom to work out deals that sacrifice our old-growth forests, salmon, and clean water for the sake of clear-cutting our public lands,” said Patti Goldman of Earthjustice, a public-interest law firm. Meanwhile, the feds have also let polluters off the hook for as much as $30 million over the last two years by neglecting to raise fines and penalties to keep pace with inflation, as required by law.