New rules, less protection?
The Forest Service says its revamped regulations under the National Forest Management Act will streamline planning for recreation, logging, grazing and other activities and better integrate ecosystem management. Critics say the new rules, published April 13 in the Federal Register, strike a blow at environmental protection. One requirement, to maintain "viable" population of all vertebrates found on the forests, is all but abandoned, says Andy Stahl, executive director of the Association of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics. The new rule calls for the protection of "sensitive species' identified by the agency, and gauges protection by the acreage of habitat type protected - not by the number of animals present. "It's all a reaction to the spotted owl litigation," Stahl says. Another change would weaken a requirement that the Forest Service determine the suitability of land for timber before deciding if it should be cut. Comment period for the new regulations ends July 12. For more information, contact Director, Ecosystem Management, Forest Service, USDA, P.O. Box 96090, Washington, DC 20090-6090.