Thursday, December 23, 2004

Calling Gregg Easterbrook....
The Bush administration issued comprehensive new rules yesterday for managing the national forests, jettisoning some environmental protections that date to Ronald Reagan's administration and putting in place the biggest change in forest-use policies in nearly three decades.
Critics such as Rep. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), a member of the House Resources Committee who tried twice unsuccessfully to block the proposed rules, said the changes will promote logging and other commercial exploitation of the national forests and relegate the public to the sidelines.
"With Bush's anti-environmental forest policy, you can't blame him for trying to hide behind other news, but not even Scrooge would unveil these regulations," Udall said. "These regulations, being offered two days before Christmas, cut the public out of the forest planning process, will inspire many more lawsuits and provide less protection for wildlife. It's a radical overhaul of forest policy."
Just before leaving office, Clinton finalized a set of regulations that emphasized ecosystem health and wildlife protection over commercial exploitation; President Bush reversed those rules just before Thanksgiving 2002. The final regulations issued yesterday, which will take effect when they are published in the Federal Register next week, are nearly identical to a proposal the administration outlined two years ago.
National forests are also an increasingly popular tourist destination for tens of millions of Americans. The number of visitors to national forests doubled over the past eight years, said Chris Wood, a Clinton administration Forest Service official who is now vice president of the conservation group Trout Unlimited.
But timber industry officials want access to the land, and they said they need a less burdensome process so federal officials can make timely decisions on proposed timber auctions. (Wash. Post)

"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."
Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, who oversees the Forest Service, is a former lobbyist for the timber industry, which threw its political support overwhelmingly toward Republicans in the last election cycle, donating more than $1.7 million to GOP candidates and party committees and just $380,000 to Democrats, according to data compiled by Dwight L. Morris & Associates, a Virginia firm that tracks campaign contributions.

Contributors identifying themselves as working for the timber industry gave $268,552 to the Republican National Committee and another $163,321 to President Bush, records show.

Three of Bush's elite fundraisers were also top timber executives: W. Henson Moore, chief of the American Forest and Paper Assn., the industry's trade group; Otis B. Ingram III, president of a Georgia lumber company; and Peter Secchia, chairman of Universal Forest Products. (LA Times)

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