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400 Scientists: Details Missing from National Forest Management Act

May 17, 2011

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Details, details, details. More than 400 scientists and about 300,000 lay people from across the country are asking for more "details" in the National Forest Management Act. The public comment period ended Monday, and New Mexico Congressman Martin Heinrich is echoing the call for specifics. He says the act gets praise for much of its content, but that wildlife and water decision-making guidelines in the plan are vague, rather than tied to the best available science.

"The proposal goes in the wrong direction by rolling back long-standing protections for wildlife in particular, and not providing sufficient direction to the agency for ensuring water quality."

A chief complaint is that concrete guidelines are missing for buffer zones around water and for maintenance of wildlife across their ranges. Instead, the plan uses a "take it into account" approach.

Congressman Heinrich says there's a direct connection to almost every resident of the state when it comes to water and wildlife management.

"Thousands of working families across my home state count on our big game herds for both recreation and nutrition, and hunters and anglers across the state, and from around the country, contribute enormously to our state's economy."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that national forests provide drinking water for about 124 million Americans, and the land is connected to 223,000 jobs, mostly in rural areas.

New Mexico has about 1.5 million acres of national forests and grasslands. The final rule is expected to go on the books by the end of this year.

The letter from scientists is posted at USDA statistics on jobs and water are at and

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - NM