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George W. Bush and Forests

March 23, 2004
Northwest Forest Plan Protections Slashed by Administration
The Bush administration announced changes to Northwest Forest Plan, crippling two of the pillars upon which regional forest protections were based. The landmark Northwest Forest Plan was adopted nearly ten years ago in an effort to slow rampant clearcutting of rare, ancient forests. The Bush administration's decision eliminates the "Survey and Manage" standard which requires that before logging federal lands, agencies must survey for rare and uncommon species that live in mature and old-growth forests and then establish buffers to protect them. The Bush administration is also weakening the Aquatic Conservation Strategy, the Northwest Forest Plan's key watershed protection measure. This means the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management will no longer be required to ensure that timber sales do not harm water quality.

February 2, 2004
Bush Administration Budget Proposal for FY 2005
President Bush�s proposed budget for fiscal year 2005 dramatically cuts funding for environmental protection. Total spending on environmental programs is slated for a $1.9 billion reduction (-5.9 percent) compared to FY 2004, falling from $32.2 billion to $30.3 billion. These are marked by sharp cuts in water and sewer funding, as well as EPA�s science budget. Funding proposals are also inadequate for land conservation, wildlife protection, and parks funding.

December 23, 2003
Tongass Gets Slashed from Roadless Rule
On the day before Christmas Eve, the Bush administration formally exempted Alaska�s National Forests from the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, despite receiving nearly 250,000 public comments opposing the plan. The decision puts the Tongass National Forest under an indefinite "temporary" exemption from the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The Forest Service has also begun the process of making the exemption permanent and extending it to include the Chugach National Forest -- the second largest National Forest, where over 5 million acres are currently protected. The administration announced a court agreement with the state of Alaska in June that would exempt the Tongass from the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, along with its intention to reconsider roadless protections for Alaska�s Chugach National Forest. At that same time, the administration announced its intention to allow exemptions from the roadless rule in the lower 48 states, suggesting that governors be given powers to remove forest protections in their states on a case-by-case basis.

May 17, 2003
Administration to Leave Tongass Rainforest Open to Clearcutting
The largest roadless area in the country has been left vulnerable to new logging as the Forest Service passed on granting wilderness protection to 3 million acres of Alaska�s Tongass National Forest. Home to salmon, grizzlies, and the highest concentration of bald eagles on earth, the Tongass is the last largely intact temperate rainforest in the world. 700 square miles of the Tongass have already been logged, and 33 large-scale logging permits are currently pending.

February 15, 2002
National Forest in Missouri Opened to Drilling
The U.S. Forest Service approved lead-mining exploration in Missouri's Mark Twain National Forest. The Doe Run Company plans to drill up to 232 holes amid the tree-covered hills and winding streams of the Ozarks. Critics worry that the porous limestone in southeastern Missouri could lead to massive water pollution. The move is the latest from a pro-development administration that had already revised the rules that governed mining on public lands to make the process easier for industry. At the same time, the administration has been issuing oil and gas leases on public lands in the Rockies at a record pace.

February 06, 2002
Bush Proposes 'Charter' Forests
The Bush Administration's new plans for forest management could elevate the role of industry at the expense of environmental review and public participation. The president's recently proposed fiscal year 2003 budget contains a provision for so-called charter forests -- a new category of federal forestland that would be managed locally. Although the plan is vague, the concept is similar to charter schools in that the forests would operate outside regular bureaucratic controls.

Under the proposal, certain national forests or portions of them could become separate entities that would be overseen by local trusts rather than the Forest Service. Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey said charter forests would remove "procedural bottlenecks" while also streamlining the environmental review process to save money and produce "less aggravation." Given the Bush administration's reluctance to enact roadless forest protections, antipathy for wildlife species protection, and support for increased logging, drilling and mining in national forests, environmentalists remain skeptical.

December 17, 2001
Wild Forest Protections Weakened Again
The Forest Service moved to change Clinton-era policies intended to protect undeveloped portions of national forests. The revisions, to what is known as the Roadless Rule, essentially allows logging and road building in roadless areas subject to the approval of the Forest Service Chief or Regional Foresters.

The new rules eliminate the requirement to prepare an environmental impact statement prior to building roads in roadless areas, and the Forest Service no longer has to show "compelling need" to legitimate road construction. The Bush Administration's new policy opens the door to logging in roadless areas such as the Tongass National Forest, the largest remaining temperate rainforest on earth.

December 16, 2001
Giant Salvage Logging Sale Planned
Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey, a former top timber industry lobbyist, personally approved the largest salvage logging project in the history of the Forest Service -- a 46,000-acre logging project in Montana's Bitterroot National Forest. About 34% of the logging was set to take place in a roadless area that is prime habitat for the threatened bull trout. The decision ignored public comment and attempted to eliminate citizens' right to appeal the decision. Fortunately, the sale was temporarily blocked by a court decision that called the decision "an extra-legal effort to circumvent the law." The Administration is currently appealing the case.

September 20, 2001
Logging Loophole
The Forest Service announced a proposal that would make it easier for the Forest Service to use a loophole called "categorical exclusions" to fast-track destructive logging projects while bypassing environmental review and public input. If the Forest Service adopts this proposal, it could severely diminish citizen review and input on destructive logging projects -- even if the logging will harm endangered species or spoil a wild forest roadless area.

May 8, 2001
Increased Logging Advocated for our National Forests
In testimony in both the Senate and House of Representatives, Bush Administration officials gave strong indications they would seek to increase logging on federal public forests. Newly-appointed US Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth told the House Forest and Forest Health Subcommittee that he would like to see revisions to basic National Forest management laws in order to expedite federal timber sales and other projects, restrict public involvement and remove added protections for individual species and their habitat when designing long-term forest management plans.

Later in the same week, Bosworth also told the Montana Logging Association that he would seek to increase local input and control on management decisions on the National Forests. Many of Bosworth's recommendations are similar to ideas pushed in the previous Bush Administration that sought to increase logging of ancient forests and roadless areas.

May 4, 2001
Wild Forests Open for Attacks
With more than 1 million comments in favor of protecting our wild forests, The Bush Administration heard the public outcry for protecting our National Forests, and is letting these protections stand at least temporarily. But rather than mounting a vigorous defense to keep our unspoiled forests from being clearcut, strip-mined or drilled for oil, President Bush is letting the state of Idaho and the timber industry attack these wild forests.

April 9, 2001
International Forests Protection Reversal
Breaking his second campaign promise on the environment, President Bush has abandoned a pledge to invest $100 million a year in a program for rain forest conservation. Bush announced in a foreign policy speech last August that he planned to greatly expand the Tropical Forest Conservation Act, which allows poor countries to restructure their debt in exchange for protecting their disappearing forests. In his campaign speech, Bush said "'We will link debt reduction and the conservation of tropical forests,'' because, �these forests affect the air we breathe, the food we eat, medicines that cure disease, and are home to more than half of earth's animal and plant species.'

January 20, 2001
Wild Forests Protection Delay
On inauguration day, the Bush Administration issued a two-month delay of this widely-supported effort to protect the remaining roadless areas of our National Forests. Bush then issued a second delay until May 12. Despite John Ashcroft's sworn promises to uphold our environmental laws, the Attorney General's office has twice failed to provide any defense to industry challenges that threaten to eviscerate the protection plan.

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