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CA Groups: Obama's Nat’l Forest Rule Takes a Step Backwards

March 25, 2011

A coalition of 120 California organizations has sent a letter to the Obama administration, criticizing a proposal for new national forest-planning rules.

The "Our Forests Our Future California" coalition calls the proposal a big step backwards. Ryan Henson, senior conservation director for one of the member groups, the California Wilderness Coalition, says the proposal doesn't do enough to protect the most precious resources in California's forests: water and wildlife. He says the new rule would weaken strong standards already in place.

"It says things like the decision-makers shall 'consider' the best available science. 'Consider' could be glancing at it or it could be convening a panel of scientists. So, it really falls down in the specific elements that could achieve its lofty goals."

The forest-planning rule also lacks clear standards of protection for watersheds such as a minimum size of buffer zones for streams, Henson says, and doesn't require local forest managers to maintain viable populations of all wildlife.

Henson says most of California's water comes from national forest land, which is why the precious resource needs greater protections.

"When adequate protective buffers aren't in place around streams, inadequate water quality goals laid out in these national forests plans - all of that can affect our drinking water."

About a quarter of the national forest land in California is still in a wild, fairly undisturbed state, Henson says, and yet is unprotected. The coalition wants to ensure the new forest-planning rules provide that protection.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA