For Immediate Release, July 16, 2009
Contact: Marc Fink, Center for Biological Diversity, (218) 525-3884
Forest Service Adopts Anti-wildlife Policies:
Obama Administration Reinstates Illegal and Inadequate Forest Regulations
DULUTH, Minn.— Perpetuating Bush administration policies, the U.S. Forest Service under the administration of President Obama has chosen to reinstate inadequate and illegal regulations to govern the national forest system, resulting in additional years of uncertainty and weak regulatory standards for wildlife and other resources throughout the national forests.
On June 30, 2009, the Forest Service’s 2008 regulations were ruled illegal and thrown out as a result of a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and other organizations. The court in that case gave the agency the choice of reinstating the 1982 or 2000 versions of the regulations. On July 15, the Forest Service issued a national directive to its regional foresters explaining that the 2000 regulations are once again in effect. The agency’s reinstatement of part of the 2000 regulations once again leaves out the protective requirements of the 1982 regulations for individual projects, including the requirement to insure the protection of wildlife populations on national forests. The Bush administration had issued a similar directive in 2007 after the 2005 regulations were also declared illegal and enjoined.
“Instead of finally providing some clarity and leadership for our national forests, the Obama administration has chosen more years of confusion and uncertainty,” said Marc Fink, attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has already found that the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act in developing the 2000 regulations, and the agency itself has acknowledged that the 2000 regulations are unworkable. Thus, conservationists were urging the Forest Service to reinstate the legally valid and more protective 1982 regulations.
Under the July 15 directive, the Forest Service position is apparently that the 1982 regulations are not in effect for site-specific projects throughout the national forest system. “For activities such as individual timber sales and mining projects, it appears that the Forest Service once again believes it need not comply with the protective standards of the 1982 regulations,” added Fink.
For forest plan amendments and revisions, the directive is less clear, and states as follows: “The Department has determined that the 2000 planning rule is now in effect, including its transition provisions as amended in 2002 and 2003 and as clarified by interpretative rules issued in 2001 and 2004, which allows you to use the procedures of the 1982 planning rule to amend or revise plans.” This obvious confusion is exactly what conservationists were hoping to avoid by encouraging the administration to instead simply reinstate the 1982 regulations in their entirety.
The July 15 directive from the Obama administration is very similar to direction issued by the Bush administration in 2007 after the 2005 version of the regulations were also found illegal and enjoined.
This week’s decision by the Forest Service to reinstate the illegal 2000 regulations caps a schizophrenic week by the agency. Earlier this week, in a deviation from Obama campaign promises to protect roadless areas, the Forest Service approved logging in a roadless area in the Tongass National Forest. In contrast, the agency today announced it was canceling a Bush administration plan to expand logging in Oregon’s national forests.
“We had hoped the Obama administration would take a consistent stand to protect our roadless areas and national forests,” said Fink. “Unfortunately the decade-long cycle of illegal regulations, litigation, and injunctions appears likely to continue.”