Friday, March 30, 2007

Forest rules tossed

Associated Press:

A federal judge today tossed out Bush administration rules that gave national forest managers more discretion to approve logging and other commercial projects without lengthy environmental reviews.

U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton ruled that the administration failed to adequately consider the environmental effects the new rules would have and neglected to properly gather public comment on the issue.

Hamilton said in her written ruling that the government “appears to have charted a new path and adopted a new policy approach regarding programmatic changes to environmental regulations.”

She ruled that the government couldn’t institute the new rules until proper environmental reviews were conducted, but declined to specify how the nation’s 155 national forests should be managed until then.

The ruling overturns a key administration environmental rule that governs all 192 million acres of national parks and stops pro-business plans in the parks under way for more than two years.

“I think people who love wildlife and care for our public forest should be elated by this decision,” said Peter Frost, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, one of the environmental groups that brought a pair of lawsuits challenging the new rules.

Forest managers and industry officials have complained that without the new rules they must conduct studies that can up to seven years to complete. The new rules would have allowed for forest plan revisions to be completed in two years to three years, officials said.

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