Just when I was getting the hang of what is happening with the Administration, tax cuts, and deficits, a news item from BushGreenwatch caused me to remember that the fight over responsible forest protection isn’t over by a long shot. This is a long-standing issue for me, having spent some of my graduate school days poring over environmental impact statements and maps of old growth forests in Washington and Oregon.
After a protracted battle, the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan put into place some minimal protections for 450+ species and key ecosystems in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. In particular, a program called “Survey and Manage” forced the Forest
Disservice Service and Bureau of Livestock and Mining Land Management to actually look at logging sites for rare (not just endangered) species.
Well…you can guess the rest of the story. Annual reviews of species covered by the program have been instituted (2001), and as a result, only 296 species and four arthropod groups are now covered. And to top it off, as a result of lawsuits by timber companies, a revised Final Supplemental EIS has been filed which recommends removing the Survey and Manage program entirely. To quote the “key points” in the EIS, the “reason for this proposal is to improve the agencies’ ability to implement the Northwest Forest Plan which balances healthy forest ecosystem objectives and sustainable commodity production.” Apparently, spending the time checking on the ground for rare species before clearcutting removes them wasn’t enough of a balance – in the direction of “sustainable commodity production.”
After basically claiming that the program is wasting “valuable public resources,” the report does mention that the agencies “remain concerned about the management of rare species” but claim that other programs, such as Special Status Species Programs and the Endangered Species Act were sufficient to the task. In other words, call us when there’s a fire to put out – we’re not interested in prevention.
Oh, and my favorite part…the language. In a stunning example of the Administration’s command of euphemism, “risk of extirpation” has been changed in the final EIS to read “sufficiency of habitat to support sustainable populations.”
It’s been hard, these last three years, to keep the entire scope of what the Administration has been up to in full view. They’ve been busy making war on many fronts, and not all of them overseas.