Federal government delays action again on protections for forests

The U.S. Forest Service has imposed a “time out” on development and roads in millions of acres of federal land, mostly in the West. KPCC’s Molly Peterson reports the move aims to unify a national policy that’s gotten messy.

Molly Peterson: The federal government will transfer authority over some wildland development to the secretary of agriculture. It’s also placing on hold the so-called “roadless rule” – a regulation first developed under President Bill Clinton.

Friction between the timber industry and environmentalists over how to manage these lands drove the rule into two federal courts that have issued conflicting opinions about what should happen. In California, the Clinton rule has held sway over about 4 million acres – 20 percent of the state’s federal forests.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger supported that. But the Bush Administration petitioned, and another judge allowed states to make their own plans less restrictive to development – so Idaho and Colorado have been doing that for their forests.

This latest move by the Obama Administration also requests that federal lawyers reverse previous policy and stop arguing against this kind of wildland protection.