HUPC ACTION UPDATE
Wolves in Utah:
Roadless Area Conservation Rule (RACR):
Nothing new but confusion. The Bush Administration and the Forest Service did not challenge the earlier Wyoming ruling which struck down the roadless rule (see HUPC LYNX 10/03). The Forest Service failed to issue a new interim directive, thus ending the rule for all practical purposes in the near term. To add insult upon insult, Bush's Justice Department is now arguing environmental groups should not be allowed to challenge the Wyoming federal judge's decision!
As depressing and scurrilous as this is, we were concerned from the onset for this process, in spite of our vigorous support of the RACR at every level, that it simply was too big, too broad and too deep to survive the divisive and shallow politics of this day. While our support for a broad, meaningful direction for roadless area preservation is unwavering, the truth is roadless areas are going to be protected one forest at a time. If our voices are not clear and vital on each forest, on each district, within each watershed, roadless areas will continue to fade.
Healthy Forest Initiative:
Passed by Congress and signed by the President, the Forest Service now has a new timber harvesting tool allowing it to cut the corners of public participation, environmental analysis and accountability. The final decision, with many environmentalists deeply hurt by many Democrats who seemingly faded on this issue, requires that: only 50% of the fire suppression projects be located in the wildland urban interface, restricts analysis alternatives in the National Environmental Policy Analysis (NEPA) process to focus on the preferred alternative, a no action alternative and one other alternative developed during scoping (only one analysis alternative is allowed for projects in the urban interface), downgrades the appeal system to a less formal review process, and encourages the Courts to expedite litigation "to the maximum extent possible."
This combined with a host of other administrative decisions to alter the NEPA process will allow those in the Forest Service who want to head backward to do just that! Let us hope the Wasatch and Ashley National Forests continue to do what is right and ethical in the way of modern forest management and public review of forest decisions!
Ashley National Forest:
Early in November, we were in Vernal to meet with the Ashley National Forest at the newly established bimonthly meeting. We focused on Vernal Ranger District issues and expect to see in the near future a draft EIS on the West Trout Slope timber sale.