2003 Scorecard Vote
The U.S. national forest system encompasses 191 million acres of land--an area equivalent to the size of Texas-- across some 44 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. These public lands harbor much of our nation's biodiversity, providing habitat for more than 25 percent of species at risk of extinction and sheltering more intact populations of rare wildlife than any other federal land system.
Unfortunately, for many years, the Forest Service tolerated or encouraged clear-cutting and over-exploitation of these natural resources. As a result, more than half of America's national forests have been destroyed or damaged by logging, oil and gas development, mining and other industrial uses. To reverse this trend, Congress in 1976 enacted the historic National Forest Management Act (NFMA) to bring accountability and sustainability to forest management, grounding it in sound science, public participation, and rational planning. The "population viability rule," drafted by the Reagan administration to carry out NFMA's mandate to protect the diversity of national forest lands, requires that planners determine whether forest management practices are protecting individual species. This rule has become one of the most important mechanisms for keeping at-risk species off the endangered species list.
In 2002, the Bush administration proposed sweeping new regulatory changes to the National Forest Management Act that would fundamentally impair the future of America's national forests. The proposed regulations, undertaken without scientific input and with the full cooperation of the timber industry, would eliminate the population viability rule, weakening safeguards for wildlife and wildlife habitats. Their proposed changes would also exempt forest plans from NEPA environmental review and place strict new limits on the ability of citizens to participate in the development of forest plans. Finally, the Bush administration proposed to make ecological sustainability of national forests a lower priority, and reduce the roles of science and monitoring in forest planning.
During consideration of H.R. 2691, the Interior appropriations bill, Representative Tom Udall (D-NM) offered an amendment to prevent the administration from finalizing or implementing these new regulations. On July 17, 2003, the House rejected the Udall amendment by a 198-222 vote (House roll call vote 384). YES is the pro-environment vote. At press time, the administration had not yet finalized its proposed rule changes.