FS Planning Rules Christmas Gift to Industry or Sound Policy Changes?
Thinking Ahead -- Letter from Chaille
By Chaille Brindley, Assistant Publisher
Date Posted: 2/7/2005
Get ready to crank up the sawmills because it looks like Uncle Sam is about ready to open national forests to a lot more timber harvesting. Or at least that is what the latest statements made by "mainstream" preservationists groups would have you believe.
††††††††††† Recently, eco groups lashed out against the Bush administration for its new forest planning rules. Preservationists predicted the new policies will lead to more logging and cause environmental damage. Does that sound familiar?
††††††††††† "These new rules continue the Administrationís practice of putting logging interests in the driverís seat while shoving wildlife and the public to the back of the bus," said Marty Hayden of Earthjustice.
††††††††††† The San Francisco Chronicle carried an editorial calling the rules a "
††††††††††† Preservationists claim the new procedures bypass environmental laws and eliminate necessary protections. While the preservationist groups have issued their typical criticisms, the U.S. Forest Service (FS) appears to have a common sense answer for all the issues raised by naysayers.
††††††††††† "The new rule will improve the way we work with the public," said FS Associate Chief Sally Collins. "It will enable the FS experts to respond more rapidly to changing conditions, such as wildfires, and emerging threats, such as invasive species."
††††††††††† The FS hopes to cut costs by 30% and reduce the time it takes to get a plan finalized or amended.
††††††††††† Instead of focusing on specific projects and operational issues as the agency has done in the past, the new planning process will be more holistic in nature addressing the overall management goals of a particular forest. As a result, the new process does not require for the forest plan to include an environmental impact statement, which has raised criticism from preservationists. The FS contends that its new procedures comply with all laws and that environmental assessments and impact statements will continue to be conducted on timber
††††††††††† I am beginning to wonder how long the same old song will continue to find an audience. It seems to any reasonable human being that the FS is simply trying to evolve with the times. Instead of being mired down in bureaucracy and court battles, the FS hopes to become more nimble in managing forests. The FS wants to cut costs and streamline processes. The FS wants to stop working on plans that are out of date by the time they get finished. The FS wants to really do something about worsening forest health conditions not just let nature take its course.
††††††††††† Preservationists groups must have something to get excited about or else they cease to have a reason to exist.
††††††††††† Donors want action and nothing makes the cash roll in like a good villain. The FS has been labeled the bad guy for years even though the agency has drastically reduced timber harvesting and is working to enact more ecologically sound policies.
††††††††††† While the eco-extremists continue to cry about all the logging taking place on national forests, the record indicates something completely different. Instead of the changes being a gift to the timber industry, in reality the new rules should help improve forest health. And the eco-extremists appear to be the Grinch trying to steal the future of
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