Weakening Forest Protections
Forest Planning Regulations
At issue are new regulations for the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), the law that requires that each of Americaís 155 national forests have a management plan in place. These plans are used to determine which lands are used for commercial activity and which are protected for other values like wildlife habitat or recreation.
The NFMA regulations were revised in 2000 after much public and scientific input and were intended to better reflect ecologically sustainable forest management. In May 2001, the Bush administration suspended the 2000 regulations under pressure from the timber industry and revised the NFMA regulations without consulting a committee of scientists or weighing in public opinion. In September 2003, a draft plan of the administrationís changes revealed their intention to eliminate environmental review and cut out scientific assessment. ("Bush plan to streamline forest rules nears completion," Matthew Daly, Associated Press, 9/9/03) The administration is expected to finalize its regulations before the end of the year.
Undermining Environmental Protections
NFMA requires the Forest Service to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the cornerstone environmental law that requires federal agencies to consider environmental impacts and public input before moving ahead with public land management decisions. Unfortunately, the proposed regulations attempt to exempt entire forest plans from the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act by using "Categorical Exclusions," a provision that allows small, non-controversial actions with minimal impact to be excluded from environmental analysis.
The proposed regulations would also eliminate the viability requirement to maintain viable populations of native wildlife species and would weaken protections for roadless areas by eliminating requirements in the 2000 regulations to evaluate and protect the ecological values of roadless areas.
Limiting Public Participation
In addition to limiting environmental analysis and public involvement at the front end, the proposed regulations would limit the publicís ability to appeal a final plan by only considering objections that the administration finds "original" and "substantive." Objections that contain "copied material" would not be considered.
Eliminating Roadless Protections
The changes to the forest planning regulations remove specific protections for our last wild roadless areas. (Learn more about the National Forest Management Act).