Democratic News

Perhaps hoping that it will be little noticed during Christmas week, the Bush Administration today announced new rules which will weaken protections for forest wildlife and dramatically alter the way our national forests are managed. The revisions will amend the 1976 National Forest Management Act -- landmark legislation which put in place basic rules for managing America’s national forest system. The new plan, however, fails to carry out Congress’s intent to improve forest management through increased public participation and formal input from scientists and outside experts. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) is ranking member of Senate Energy Committee and Tom Harkin (D-IA) is the Agriculture Committee’s top Democrat. Here is a reaction from each: Bingaman: "This new rule appears to be the latest example of the Administration saying one thing and doing another. The Forest Service claims to be improving the accountability of forest management, but its new rule cuts back on public input and participation. The Forest Service says it wants to emphasize science, yet for the first time in history it is issuing new forest regulations without the independent review of a committee of scientists, as the law provides. If our national forests are truly national, then they need to be managed to promote the public good, and not simply as a gift to private, special interests."
 Harkin: "For nearly 30 years we have been evolving toward more common sense, more sustainable management of our nation’s 191 million acres of national forests. The Bush Administration’s new plan threatens to derail decades of progress in that direction by backing away from long-standing, bipartisan commitments to non-timber resources like wildlife, public involvement and scientific review. I’m afraid that President Bush has spent some his so-called political capital on an early Christmas gift to his logging and paper industry friends. It’s too bad that this will come at significant cost to our nation’s forests."

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