Environment & Science

Obama forest rules not much better than Bush's, enviros say

Coastal redwood forest Muir Woods, California - March 2008
Coastal redwood forest Muir Woods, California - March 2008
Jared Steine/Flickr (Creative Commons-licensed)

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Dozens of California-based conservation groups are pressing federal forest managers to strengthen regulations proposed for protecting national forests and the wildlife in those habitats.

A fifth of all the land in California lies inside a national forest. Every president since Ronald Reagan has issued some guidance about what happens there in the form of these rules; each time the guidance is a little different.

But the essence of the National Forest Management Act is that interests in logging and consuming forest resources must be balanced with the forest's health and the welfare of wildlife within it.

Most environmental activists say the new rules are an improvement over George W. Bush-era policies. But in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, groups from throughout the state criticize the Obama administration's plans as vague.

The letter advocates clearer standards based on the best available science for what makes a forest ecosystem healthy. The groups argue that forests need better and more specific protections because they reduce the effects of climate change, contribute to tourism and contain half the state’s drinking water.

The U.S. Forest Service is taking comments on the proposed rules through spring. Federal officials hope to finalize forest rules sometime this summer.