Experts call for stronger forest rule

In recent weeks, news coverage of the National Forest Management Act planning rule has been increasing as the public comment period comes to a close.  Here are just two excerpts from guest opinion pieces that have been published around the country:

In the Arizona Daily Star, U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva (D, AZ) wrote:

The current rule is built on the notion that the health of our national forests and their waters and wildlife are as important as other uses such as timber harvests. And the way to ensure that the Forest Service lives up to this standard is to require forest managers to protect and maintain healthy watersheds and wildlife populations. When the fish and wildlife are doing well, it means our national forests are being responsibly managed.

The Obama administration’s proposed rule, however, is muddy on which animals – and how many – will be protected and monitored. It also lacks clear direction and binding, enforceable standards to ensure the protection of watersheds and wildlife in our nation’s forests.

Instead, the new rule gives nearly complete discretion to forest managers to decide which animals are deserving of protection and which are not – potentially limiting the role of science and scientific experts in management decisions.

In the Denver Post, scientists Barry Noon and Dominick DellaSala wrote:

The Forest Services’ planning rule sets a bold vision but is short on particulars. It acknowledges the need for public input on forest planning and, because National Forests differ from place to place, maintains that forest plans should reflect some local differences. The agency also recognizes that management decisions need to be grounded in sound science. But the devil is in the details. A closer look reveals that science only has to be considered, not actually used in forest plans. And while forests differ, the rule should ensure that clean drinking water and fish and wildlife have solid protections on all Forest Service lands.

These articles and others (including this N.Y. Times editorial) all come to the same conclusion:  The proposed forest planning rules needs strengthening so that it can effectively protect wildlife, water, and other resources into the future.  Defenders of Wildlife will be submitting detailed comments next month laying out our vision for strengthening the planning rule – look for more information here.

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dotWild is the blog of scientists and policy experts at Defenders of Wildlife, a national, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.