Democratic News

Re: public lands, there are two big newsmakers today:
In a sweeping decision, a Federal judge in California reinstated Clinton-era protections for nearly 50 million acres of roadless National Forest lands.  The decision nullifies the Bush Administration’s state petition process and reinstates the Clinton rule that made roadless areas in National Forests off-limits to most roadbuilding, logging and other development.  The Bush Administration’s plan had been challenged in a suit filed by four state attorneys general and 20 environmental groups.  The suit claimed the Administration failed to comply with applicable federal laws before voiding the Clinton roadless protections.
 
Sen. Bingaman: “It’s unfortunate that the Administration, which was so critical of the Clinton Roadless Rule process, was so careless and cursory with its own process.  A great deal of time, energy and money has been wasted as a result.  I realize that no rule can perfectly satisfy everyone, but the Clinton Roadless Rule struck a chord with Americans, who want to ensure that the few remaining acres of roadless areas in our national forests will be there for the enjoyment of their children and grandchildren.  That rule was adopted after more than three years of study, 600 public hearings and a record number of comments – the overwhelming majority of which favored protecting our roadless wild areas.”
 
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Also today, the Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General released a report criticizing the Administration’s implementation of the Healthy Forests Initiative.  (Since 2001, the Administration has spent five years and billions of dollars on programs intended to protect communities from wildfire.)  The report found that the Forest Service has failed to put in place controls to ensure that the highest priority forest fuels reduction work is done first and pushed its managers to work on the easiest and least expensive projects instead of the most critical and effective ones.  The result is communities needlessly left at risk and tax dollars poorly spent, threatening the future good health of America’s forests and the communities which surround them.
 
Sen. Bingaman:  “Congress, experts and at-risk communities for years have been urging the Administration to develop a meaningful fuels reduction strategy.  But the leadership of the Forest Service has largely ignored those calls and instead pushed its managers to treat the cheapest and easiest acres, leaving communities at risk and wasting taxpayer dollars.  The IG report is hard-hitting and reaches some disturbing conclusions, and I believe it’s time for accountability. Hopefully, this study will finally move those in charge of the Forest Service to take seriously the need for strategic planning and scientific analysis to protect our communities and restore our forests.”