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07/08/2009

National Forest Management Act Restored

Last week, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California overturned Bush's final attempt to repeal key protections for national forests under the National Forest Management Act (NFMA).  The rule was issued in April 2008 and looked very similar to a 2005 rule, one which was also thrown out by a federal court.  Both rules eliminated requirements that national forests, as well as national grasslands, be managed for populations of all wildlife species, to preserve streams and lakes, and to protect diversity among forest ecosystems.  Additionally, the rules reduced public participation in forest management decisions.

Shenandoah

courtesy of the National Park Service

The Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Wilderness Society were represented in the case by Earthjustice.  The rules were overturned on the basis that the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.  They violated the former by approving regulations that were based on a faulty environmental impact statement and they violated the latter by failing to take into account the effects of eliminating wildlife protection standards on protected species.  By making certain that our forests and grasslands are managed not for extractive purposes but for water, wildlife, and ecosystems we can make them more adaptable habitats as the climate continues to warm.

This legal victory further bolsters efforts to update and modernize wildlife management on federal lands.  Reps. Kind (D-WI) and Jones (R-NC) recently introduced America's Wildlife Heritage Act (HR 2807), a bill that would provide agencies with the necessary science-based tools to monitor wildlife and manage for sustainable populations in the face of the 21st century challenges brought on by climate change and shifting habitats.  The Sierra Club is working with various sporting and conservation organizations to pass this significant legislation and ensure that we further improve management of our country's unique wildlife values. 

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