WASHINGTON -- February 28 -- The U.S. Forest Service allowed the timber industry to rewrite a comprehensive plan for managing 11 national forests in California, according to a legal claim made today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). PEER is filing to intervene in a California Forestry Association lawsuit that seeks to triple the annual timber harvest from national forests in the Sierra Nevada an increased rate of logging that the Bush Administration is also seeking through an administrative route by its rewrite of the Sierra management plan.
PEER is acting to prevent the Bush Administration and the timber industry from cementing in the higher logging levels through a settlement of the industry suit brought against the Forest Service in Washington, D.C. PEER contends that, despite the suggestion of a disagreement implied by a lawsuit, the industry and the Bush Administration actually agree with each other and that a friendly settlement of the suit would insulate their deal from legal challenges brought by conservation groups.
The Forest Service is now run by a former timber industry lobbyist, Mark Rey, whose mission, before he returns to the private sector, is to radically undercut sustainable forest policies, stated California PEER Director Karen Schambach. The years of work that went into developing the Sierra Framework of 2001, a model plan of which the Forest Service should have been proud, were chucked out the window with barely a wink and a nod.
In 2004, the Bush Administration scrapped the Sierra Framework of 2001, covering 11.5 million acres, in its entirety. According to the declaration filed by PEER, the Forest Service
· Had an open door policy for the timber industry in developing the 2004 rewrite. The Forest Service conducted no public hearings, in contrast to the 2001 plan which was produced after 60 public hearings;
- Repeatedly overruled its own specialists and misused data in order to justify unsupportable timber harvest levels; and
- Drove its scientists who disagreed with the increased logging targets out of the agency. In one instance, a specialist found himself blackballed from obtaining employment as a private consultant.
In this the centennial year of the U.S. Forest Service, the agency leadership has disgraced the agencys legacy and should be ashamed of themselves, added Schambach, noting that the timber industry lawsuit filed last December in Washington, D.C. targeted the 2001 Sierra Framework, not the new Bush plan. Jenner & Block, a national law firm, is representing PEER in this action.
Earlier this month, the California Attorney General and a coalition of conservation groups filed a lawsuit in federal court in Sacramento that directly challenges the legality of the Bush Administrations 2004 Sierra plan.
Read PEERs motion to intervene
See PEERs declaration in support of the motion