Aim to Overturn Bush Forest Plan
November 16, 2004 — By Christopher Doering,
Democrats and environmental groups Monday expressed
hope that changes in the Bush administration Cabinet
could moderate a White House plan to open some 60
million acres of federal forests to logging.
A proposed rule by the U.S. Agriculture Department
to give state governors more control over nearly a
third of federal forests has come under intense
criticism by opponents who contend it is nothing
more than a favor to timber companies.
The deadline for public comments on the plan ended
Monday. So far, opponents have sent more than 1.7
million comments to the U.S. Forest Service,
according to environmental groups.
"With the president reaching out and seeing that in
the West his candidacy was very contested, this was
one of the reasons," New Mexico Gov. Bill
Richardson, a Democrat, told reporters on a
teleconference. We hope "a new secretary of
agriculture would use this issue to bring people
together," he said.
Agriculture Department Secretary Ann Veneman
resigned Monday after four years leading the
department that oversees the U.S. Forest Service. It
was not clear how soon a successor would be named.
Last July, Veneman proposed a forest roadbuilding
rule that opponents said reversed a 2001 plan
developed by the former Clinton administration.
The Clinton plan aimed to limit road construction,
logging and oil mining in 58.5 million acres of
federal forest deemed worthy of special protections
to save endangered species or local habitats from
The Bush administration measure would effectively
exempt states from federal restrictions on logging
and road construction in environmentally sensitive
areas, unless a governor asked for specific lands to
If the new agriculture secretary is unwilling to
make changes, opponents said they may file a lawsuit
to block the plan from moving forward. The roadless
plan has been subjected to nearly a dozen lawsuits
since its adoption, many from western states who
opposed the earlier Clinton proposal.
The Forest Service must review public comments and
has not set a date for finalizing its rule, a
Richardson and eight other Democratic governors,
mostly from the Midwest and eastern U.S., sent a
letter to the USDA that expressed their opposition
to the current forest plan.
"The latest proposal is nothing less than an
outright repeal of the rule," said William Meadows,
president of the Wilderness Society. "It replaces
what Americans have supported for years," he said.
NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section
107, any copyrighted
material herein is distributed without profit or
payment to those who have
expressed a prior interest in receiving this
information for non-profit
research and educational purposes only. For more
information go to: