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A Holiday Wish: Protect America's Forests

December 20, 2010

DENVER - A new effort has been launched, asking President Obama for a holiday gift: protection for America's national forests. Groups from 10 states - including 16 organizations based in Colorado - have banded together in the interest of making sure next month's update of the national forest management plan protects "creatures great and small."

Caitlin Balch-Burnett, who is the Colorado outreach representative with Defenders of Wildlife, says they have one goal.

"To really ask for a very strong national forest rule that will safeguard our wildlife, our habitat, as well as guarantee really clean and safe drinking water for a lot of the communities that rely on it."

The Department of Agriculture, which manages national forests through the U.S. Forest Service, estimates that national lands support nearly a quarter-million rural jobs, and contribute more than $14 billion to the U.S. economy. The Obama administration is expected to issue a new land management proposal in January.

Once the rule is drafted, the process will be open to public comment during 2011, in a process Balch-Burnett says is important.

"It's not just the administration listening to a bunch of experts. The public has a huge stake in this as well."

Balch-Burnett says the campaign asking for tough and balanced rules comes from multiple constituencies.

"That's a great way of describing it. So many of our national forests, and grasslands, and public lands in general, are multiple uses, and it's important that they remain that way for everyone to use."

The coalition includes conservationists, outdoor sports enthusiasts, hikers, wildlife preservationists, anglers, and hunters.

More about the campaign is at secure3.convio.net

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO