Obama Administration Announces New Effort to Protect Wildlife in National Forests

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Trent Orr, Earthjustice 510-550-6700

Obama Administration Announces New Effort to Protect Wildlife in National Forests

Won’t appeal court ruling striking down Bush era regulation

SEATTLE, Wa. - Today Agriculture
Secretary Vilsack announced the Obama administration would not appeal a
court ruling won by Earthjustice that struck down forestry regulations
enacted by the Bush administration. The Bush regulations greatly
weakened protections
for wildlife and other natural resources ofAmerica’s national forests,
which is why Earthjustice and a coalition of conservation groups
opposed them. Secretary Vilsack said the administration will undertake
a new rule-making. The Department of Agriculture oversees
the US Forest Service and America’s national forests.

 
The Bush rule sought to remove key environmental protections
governing the 191-million-acre National Forest System by eliminating
mandatory protections for wildlife and clean water and mandatory limits
on timber harvesting. These regulations were also
part of a concerted effort by the Bush administration to sharply
curtail public participation in the forest management planning process.
Among the measures the Bush regulations discarded was a key regulatory
guarantee of wildlife viability in the national forests
that had been in place since the Reagan administration.
 
“The national forest planning rules are like the Constitution for
our national forests, and the Bush administration tried to throw out
the Bill of Rights. The American people deserve the highest protections
possible for their national forests, which provide
habitat for countless species, clean drinking water for millions of
Americans, and invaluable recreation opportunities across the nation,”
said Trent Orr of Earthjustice, who argued the case. “While new rules
are being considered, agencies have a strong set
of tools they can use to manage our national forests in the resource
protective standards of the 1982 regulations.”
 
The National Forest Management Act (NFMA) requires the Forest
Service to protect wildlife in the national forests and to allow
citizens to participate fully in management decisions. The Bush rules
supplanted the 1982 standards for national forest management
instituted under Ronal Reagan, which required public review of the
environmental impacts of proposed national forest plans governing
timber harvest levels and natural resource protection.
 
Earthjustice, represented Defenders of Wildlife, The Wilderness
Society, the Sierra Club, and Vermont Natural Resources Council in the
legal challenge to the Bush administration rule changes.
 
The Bush administration first rewrote the rules in 2005. Earthjustice challenged this in court and won.
 
In April 2008, the Forest Service reissued virtually identical
rules to those issued in 2005. Like the 2005 rules, the 2008 rules
eliminated important protections for forests, wildlife, watersheds, and
other natural resources. Earthjustice sued again because,
again, the 2008 rules violated the National Environmental Policy Act
and the Endangered Species Act. At the end of June 2009, Earthjustice
won a court ruling striking the 2008 rules.
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Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.

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