Feds abandon appeal of forest management
Washington (AP) The Bush administration has dropped its appeal of a 2007 court decision that had overturned new management rules for 191 million acres of national forests. Opponents to the rules had argued they weakened protection for wildlife and the environment to the benefit of the timber industry.The Justice Department notified the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week that it was withdrawing its appeal, saying that the other parties, including the timber industry, would do likewise.We are glad the Bush administration has thrown in the towel, said Trent Orr, an attorney for Earthjustice, one of the environmental advocacy groups that had challenged the new forest management rules in court.Last March, a federal district court in California found that the U.S. Forest Service had bypassed required environmental reviews and provisions under the Endangered Species Act in its overhaul of the management rules, including changes in logging limits, for its national forests.The case, Citizens for Better Forestry vs. USDA, challenged recent changes to what must be included in a forest plan, said Pete Frost, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, in a phone interview Friday with the Sierra Sun.Tahoe National Forest, for example, has a forest plan or land and resources management plan, Frost said. They are the blueprint for how a forest is managed.Frost said the plans were previously governed by regulations set in 1982 under the Reagan administration, which Frost described as good, but new regulations created in 2005 under the Bush administration, which he said were not.U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton, acting on a lawsuit filed by environmentalists, prohibited the further implementation of the revised rules that were issued in January, 2005.The lawsuit argued that the new forest management plan illegally eased logging restrictions and removed a number of mandatory protections that had been in the previous management regulations, while also curtailing public participation in developing management plans.The good news is theyve dropped the appeal, said Orr in a telephone interview with the Associated Press. But he said that doesnt mean the issue is put to rest.Last August, the U.S. Forest Service said it was developing revised rules that it hoped would pass legal scrutiny.Theyre just kind of doing the same thing over again. I suspect the court wont be any more friendly to this version, said Orr, predicting further lawsuits. The Suns Greyson Howard contributed to this report.
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