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Tuesday, August 2nd, 2005
Court overturns Bush repeal of NW Forest Plan
Judge Upholds Protection for Old-Growth Forests
Doug Heiken/Oregon Natural Resources Council
Seattle - The Bush administration's decision to eliminate safeguards
that protected old-growth forests and associated plants and wildlife has
been declared illegal by a federal judge. The "Survey and Manage" rules
under the Northwest Forest Plan, required federal agencies to survey an
old-growth area for rare plants and wildlife before allowing logging or
other destructive activities, and if found, modify their plans to reduce
the risk of extinction.
"This is a huge victory for people who value wildlife and the old-growth
forests of the Pacific Northwest" said Doug Heiken on Oregon Natural
Resources Council. "It's time for the Bush administration to recognize
that Oregonians value our natural heritage and want to see it
"This ruling helps preserve an important system of checks and balances
that protects our old-growth forests for wildlife, clean water, and
future generations," said Joseph Vaile of Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands
Judge Marsha Pechman of Seattle ruled that "even though the Survey and
Manage standard was only a part of the overall strategy to protect these
species, it was a necessary part to satisfy the [Northwest Forest]
Plan's 'foundational objectives.'"
Dominick DellaSala, a PhD and forest
ecologist with the World Wildlife Fund, explains how the rule protects a
delicate web of life. "There are hundreds of species that are essential
to the health of old-growth forests by cycling nutrients and cleaning
our air and water, where the sum of their parts is greater than the
whole." DellaSala explains, "The Survey and Manage program, developed
by some of the best scientific thinkers in the region, is a global model
of conservation because it recognizes this important fact."
States Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management estimate that
without the Survey and Manage rules, more than 50 species are at high
risk of local extinction. Without the rules, old-growths forests across
Oregon, from the slopes of Mount Hood, to the headwaters of the McKenzie
River, to the Wild and Scenic Rogue River were all at greater risk from
The Bush administration attempted to eliminate these and other
safeguards as part of a settlement agreement with the logging industry
over a lawsuit logging interests filed in 2001.
In March 2003, the Bush administration eliminated the "survey and
manage" standard-a central part of the Northwest Forest Plan, since it
was adopted nearly ten years ago. The Plan was declared to be legal in
1995 in part because the Survey and Manage standard gave federal
officials some assurance that wildlife in the forests would be
adequately protected from logging.
A fundamental principle of the survey and manage rules is to protect
habitat for threatened wildlife to prevent them from becoming
endangered. Doing so lessens the likelihood that future endangered
species listings will interfere with logging.
The Northwest Forest Plan was adopted in 1994 to protect spotted owls,
wild salmon, and over one thousand other species that call the
old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest home. The plan applies only
to federal lands, and was supposed to provide enough wildlife habitat on
federal lands so that private forests could be managed with fewer
The Northwest Forest Plan significantly reduced logging on federal lands
at a time when the logging industry was restructuring to address
changing mill technology and international competition. Most mills that
remain competitive today have retooled to process smaller trees and
obtain most of their log supplies from private lands. Only a few mills
in Oregon and Washington continue to target old-growth trees from
federal lands. Meanwhile, polls have repeatedly demonstrated that a
majority of voters in Oregon and Washington support protecting all
remaining mature and old-growth forest in their states.
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