Yesterday, a federal judge once again struck down an attempt to revise the rules governing national forest planning (see our story "The End of Analysis Paralysis"). Environmentalists had filed suit, charging that the changes would weaken protections for wildlife (by getting rid of the viability requirement) and exempt national forest plans from formal review under the National Environmental Policy Act. It's now the third time the changed rules have been pushed back in court. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
The decision means the Forest Service will have to reinstate rules protecting fish and wildlife and limiting logging in 150 national forests and 20 national grasslands covering 192 million acres, including more than a dozen national forests in California.
"It is a great victory for national forests," said Marc Fink, a lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity, which was one of the plaintiffs. "We're hoping today's ruling is the final nail in the coffin for the Bush forest policies and that we can move forward and do what is right for the forests."
The agency will now have to return to either its 1982 or 2000 planning rules. But those cumbersome, inflexible rules are still in need of an overhaul. “We’ve sort of run the course (with the previous rule) and a lot of things haven’t worked,” said Tony Cheng, associate professor of forestry and natural resource policy at Colorado State University (quoted in our 2007 story). “Maybe it’s time to try something new. Public lands are an experiment in participatory democracy.”