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For Immediate Release, February 10, 2011

Contact: Marc Fink, (218) 525-3884

President Obama's Forest Service Tries to Weaken Wildlife Protections in National Forests

DULUTH, Minn.— The U.S. Forest Service today released its draft planning rule for the country’s 193-million acre national forest system. The draft represents the agency’s fourth attempt since 2000 to revise the regulations governing national forests. Three previous attempts were challenged in court by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies; they were found to be unlawful. Like the 2000, 2005 and 2008 rules, today’s plan would decrease longstanding protections for wildlife on the national forests.

“Today’s draft rule may be a step up from the Bush administration but it remains a step down from the regulations of the Reagan era, which the Forest Service has been trying to weaken for 11 years,” said Marc Fink, a Center attorney. “This is a time of unprecedented global climate change and stress; the Forest Service should be looking for ways to strengthen, not weaken, protections for wildlife on our public lands.”

Congress enacted the National Forest Management Act in 1976 to guide management of the national forest system, which consists of 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands. In 1982, the Forest Service adopted national regulations to provide specific direction for activities on the forests, such as logging, livestock grazing and recreation. Those 1982 rules included strong, mandatory protections for fish and wildlife species, requiring the Service to monitor and maintain viable populations.

The Clinton administration in 2000, and the Bush administration in 2005 and 2008, issued new rules to revise the 1982 regulation. Each of these efforts was found unlawful and none of the rules were implemented. Today’s long-anticipated draft rule from the Obama administration tries once again to weaken the longstanding 1982 regulations. It for instance requires the Forest Service to only maintain viable populations for species it deems “of conservation concern,” which first requires a determination that the evidence demonstrates a significant concern for the species.

“Today’s plan would hurt animals and plants by creating bureaucratic obstacles to their protection,” said Fink.

The Forest Service is accepting public comments on the draft rule and the accompanying draft environmental impact statement for 90 days. A final rule is anticipated toward the end of the year.

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