Washington, DC — The U.S. Forest Service is moving to eliminate any reviews of its actions by outside agencies for compliance with endangered species, clean water, and historical preservation laws, according to a planning memo released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Citing what Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth has identified as “the Four Threats” (fire risk, invasive species, un-managed recreation and loss of open space), the agency plans to jettison any consultation or other “process” it deems unrelated to “the Four Threats.” Consequently, the Forest Service will end —
- Endangered species consultation on “inland aquatic species with both…Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA-Fisheries.” In addition, building on a recently finalized rule waiving Endangered Species Act consultations on fire-related activities, the Forest Service would expand this no consultation stance “to all land management activities;”
- Environmental analyses of any herbicide applications done in the name of controlling invasive plants; and
- Compliance with Historic Preservation Act rules requiring review by state agencies of protection of historical and cultural artifacts.
“The Forest Service fails to grasp the difference between streamlining and steamrolling,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, arguing that ending inter-agency consultation eliminates checks on Forest Service abuses and leads to more litigation because lawsuits would become the only avenue for securing agency compliance with resource protection laws. “The Forest Service’s track record makes a powerful case for more outside review not less.”
Taken together, this new policy takes the Forest Service in a radically different direction from that articulated by the previous Chief, Michael Dombeck, a fisheries biologist. Dombeck placed “the health of our rivers, streams and lakes” as the guiding principle for Forest Service management — an ecosystem approach completely absent from the mechanistic formulation of “the Four Threats.” “The Four Threats sounds more like a Maoist slogan than a coherent management philosophy,” commented Ruch. “Healthy fish populations, water quality and preserving our cultural heritage are important values springing from our National Forests, not impediments to be overcome.”