Bush's game plan a clear and present danger

  Dear HCN,

Contrary to your suggestion (HCN, 2/4/02: No game plan for the public lands), the Bush administration has a very clear game plan: Drill, mine and log.

Start with the all-out campaign to turn the Arctic Refuge's coastal plain into a sprawling oil field. The president also has expressed interest in drilling in the national monuments, and exploration is under way already outside Arches and Canyonlands national parks. The administration, always professing its belief in listening to local interests, is rolling over Californians in asking the courts to allow drilling off the California coast. A little-publicized December memo from BLM headquarters directed the agency's field staff not to take any action that might preclude energy development.

A major new mining regulation was watered down, and the administration is trying to push mining in Oregon's Siskiyou National Forest and on California lands sacred to the Quechan tribe. Three top administration officials told the Northwest Mining Association that they wanted to soften regulations adopted in recent years. The off-road vehicle lobby has persuaded the administration to back away from plans to protect Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks from snowmobiles.

In the national forests, the historic Roadless Area Conservation Rule is being emasculated. The regulations that made watersheds and ecosystems the top priorities are being weakened. The forward-looking plan for managing the 11 Sierra Nevada forests, based on a decade of scientific study and public comment, has now been sent back for review, as you reported in this story. Two roadless area timber sales are proposed on Idaho's Clearwater National Forest.

The Bush administration has stocked the Interior Department and Forest Service with political appointees whose careers have been invested in the mining, logging, livestock, and oil and gas industries. They know exactly what they want to do to the lands belonging to all Americans, and it's up to all of us who value the enduring qualities of these lands to make sure that this game plan blows up in their faces.

Craig Gehrke
Boise, Idaho

The writer is the Idaho regional director of The Wilderness Society.

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