Just before Christmas last year, the Bush administration released new rules for managing the national forests.

Eliminating the most fundamental wildlife protections, these new rules open up millions of acres of national forests– including old growth, roadless areas and sensitive wildlife habitat– to logging or other harmful activities, disregard science and shut the public out of meaningful input.

While the new rules eliminated many protections outright, there is still an opportunity to comment on the rule for adopting or changing forest management plans. These plans identify how much logging, oil and gas drilling, mining, road building, grazing and motorized recreation will take place and where. After the long-term forest plan is approved, projects to carry out the plan are then implemented over time.

The administration is accepting comments on only one portion of the new rules: It proposes to exempt forest management plans from environmental review and public input under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The rest of the rule changes are final as of Jan. 5, 2005.


Please send a letter urging the Bush administration to abandon its proposed rule change.

SAMPLE LETTER (please feel free to rewrite in your own words)

I strongly oppose the proposed rule change published on Jan. 5, 2005 that would exempt forest management plans, revisions or amendments from environmental review and meaningful public input under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The proposed new rule would:

o Hide from the public adequate information to evaluate the environmental consequences of forest plans;

o Disregard the best available science in favor of commercial interests;

o Make it easier for timber, oil, gas, mining and motorized recreation corporations to profit from the use of public forests while eliminating the need for forest managers to assess potentially harmful impacts on water, wildlife, recreational use, old growth and roadless areas;

o Worsen conditions for wildlife. Without environmental analysis of a forest plan or changes to a plan, the impacts to wildlife will not be understood. The new regulations have already abolished the requirements to maintain viable populations of species and to monitor those populations. Adopting this new proposal effectively removes all enforceable requirements to analyze and monitor wildlife health, both at the forest plan and at the project level; and

o Call for environmental analysis to be done only at the project level. The Bush administration has already exempted many types of logging projects from environmental review under NEPA, mostly through the misleadingly named "Healthy Forest Initiative," in effect eliminating all environmental review and opportunity for public comment. Additionally, the proposed rule would eliminate studying or disclosing the cumulative impact of management activities across the national forest, which is usually done at the planning stage.

Send your comments to:

USDA Content Analysis Team
Attention: Planning CE
P.O. Box 22777
Salt Lake City, UT 84122
Fax: 801.517.1015

Click here for detailed analysis of rule changes:



Forests Forever:
Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection
John J. Berger

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places