Court Overturns Bush Administration Rules for Managing Nation’s Forests
Bush administration regulations removing nationwide forest protections established by the Reagan administration were adopted illegally, according to a decision handed down by the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Two years ago, the Bush administration drastically modified these forest rules, virtually eliminating longstanding protections for fish, wildlife, and the environment. The Reagan administration originally established the forest rules in 1982 to protect national forest lands, which encompass 192 million acres of forests and grasslands in 42 states.
The district court ruled that, when the Bush administration modified the regulations in January 2005, it failed to include the environmental protection measures mandated by Congress in the National Forest Management Act, opting instead for a rule-free approach that favored logging and drilling. The administration also eliminated measures to ensure wildlife populations and other natural resources would not be destroyed in the process of managing national forests. The district court found that the Bush administration failed to consider the environmental impacts of its far-reaching regulatory changes and neglected to offer the public an opportunity to comment on these significant changes.
The new ruling follows others overturning anti-conservation forest policies adopted by the Bush administration. In September 2006, a federal district court reinstated protections adopted by the Clinton administration for the 58.5 million acres of roadless areas on national forests
Two lawsuits, Defenders of Wildlife v. Johanns and Citizens for Better Forestry v. USDA, were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, joined, and heard by Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton. Plaintiffs in the first case are Defenders of Wildlife, The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, and Vermont Natural Resources Council, represented by Earthjustice. Thirteen other conservation organizations are represented by the Western Environmental Law Center in the second case.