The Associated Press reported yesterday that the Bush administration, brushing aside concerns from environmentalists, is pushing forward with plans to give national forest managers more flexibility to approve logging and commercial activities, with less environmental review.
Birders and environmentalists across the United States should be outraged.
In brief, the purpose of the new plan is to accelerate commercial access to the 155 U.S. national forests.Â It accomplishes this by granting regional managers of the Forest Service more discretion to approve logging, drilling and mining operations without having to conduct formal scientific investigations A.K.A. environmental impact statements.
The National Forest Management Act, passed in 1976, established basic rules for national forest management that protected native wildlife.Â The new plan deemphasizes wildlife preservation and related environmental concerns when deciding how much logging or recreation to allow on federal land.
The scientific consensus is that the most significant cause of species loss today is habitat destruction, degradation and fragmentation.Â Of the 526 species of plants and animals classified as extinct, more birds are now gone forever than any other group.Â We have already lost at least 21 birds and are in danger of losing many more.Â There are 104 bird species that are declining rapidly, have very small populations or limited ranges, and face major conservation threats, according to the Audubon Watchlist.Â There are an additional 94 species that are also declining but at a slower rate.
Very few public policies seem targeted at the birding community directly.Â However, it is surprising how many of them callously threaten the birds and wildlands that we enjoy so much.Â I don’t know about you, but I’m disturbed by this new “forest management” rules.