Coloradans Weigh in on National Forest Planning Rule
Colorado Democratic Representatives Jared Polis and Diana DeGette have signed on to a letter urging the Obama Administration to strengthen a proposed sweeping new rule governing management of National Forests. The move came as a public comment window on the draft rule ended Monday and as controversy continued to ignite from both sides of the political spectrum.
The letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was penned by Congressman Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) and signed by some 60 other lawmakers, mostly Democrats.
"Although the plan demonstrates some great vision, we believe the proposal goes in the wrong direction by rolling back long standing protections for wildlife and not providing sufficient direction to the agency for ensuring water quality," Heinrich told reporters in a conference call.
Heinrich and many conservation groups say the rule has good ambitions, but falls short on specifics for protecting wildlife and watersheds.
Meanwhile, timber companies in western states have argued the proposal does little to address the tangle of administrative appeals and lawsuits that the industry says has hampered any development on national forests.
The Forest Service’s proposed rule includes a push for more habitat and restoration jobs on forests. It also gives more discretion to local forest managers in some instances, while also encouraging them to consider the best possible peer reviewed science in their land management decisions.
Department of Agriculture officials have stressed the proposed rule is just that, a proposal, and not final.
"I think what we want to have is a rule that is our best effort to try to reflect the broad and diverse interests of the American people and of those who use and enjoy the national forests," said Ric Rine, assistant director for planning at the US Forest Service’s Washington DC office, in a recent interview.
The Obama Administration hopes to publish a final planning rule by the end of the year.