Bush hits the brakes

 

Almost immediately after taking office, President George W. Bush slapped a freeze on Bill Clinton's last batch of new regulations, giving the new president time to review and possibly overturn those rules. New regulations which have not yet appeared in the Federal Register have been withdrawn for review; those already published but not yet in effect are delayed 60 days.

At the top of the list is the U.S. Forest Service's roadless plan (HCN, 1/29/01: Roadless plan slides to safety), but other new rules under scrutiny include designation of critical habitat for the Mexican spotted owl in the Southwest (see Hotline page 5), withdrawal of Montana's Rocky Mountain Front from hard-rock mining, a two-year moratorium on new mining claims in Oregon's Siskiyou National Forest and a set of new national refuge management policies.

Bush has substantial support from Western senators, many of whom are frustrated by Clinton's unilateral declarations affecting their states. But it won't be easy to reverse the regulations, says Ken Rait of the Oregon Natural Resources Council, because so much environmental review and public input went into them. Any attempt to substantially change regulations which have gone through the National Environmental Policy Act would itself have to meet NEPA criteria or be vulnerable to a legal challenge (see story page 7).

Environmentalists also say that public support for protection is strong. Says ONRC's Rait, "There will be a great political liability associated with any attempt to undo protection."

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