t r u t h o u t - Bush Bows to Logging, Energy and Mining Interests: "Environmental groups criticized President George Bush Thursday for reopening 60 million acres of federal forests to logging and road building after the administration formally overturned a Clinton-era rule that protected the land from development.
A new US Forest Service final regulation will exempt states from federal restrictions on road construction in environmentally sensitive forest areas unless a governor asks for specific land to be protected.
The regulation is supported by logging, energy and mining companies, which need to build roads to operate in federal forests.
Green groups and Democratic lawmakers said the proposal was a complete reversal of a 2001 rule developed by former President Bill Clinton that would have kept these forests under federal control.
'The minute this rule is put into effect, the 2001 rule as we all know it is wiped off the books. Federal protections are gone,' said Robert Vandermark, director for the Heritage Forests Campaign. 'These lands are now at immediate risk to any kind of development from the logging, mining and drilling industries.'
Signed just days before leaving office, the Clinton rule virtually halted development on 58.5 million acres of federal forest deemed worthy of special protections to save endangered species or local habitats from irreversible damage.
Under the new rule, governors have 18 months to submit a request to the federal government for any forest land they want protected. A national advisory committee composed of groups 'interested in conservation' will review each petition."