For nearly 30 years, some of the most prized and important waters and wildlife habitats have been protected by a federal rule that directs the management of our National Forests. But all of that could change with a proposed rule change that would leave wildlife and waters in peril.
Tell the Obama Administration and the Forest Service to strengthen – not weaken -- this rule so that it guarantees protections for our National Forests.
In the United States, there are 155 National Forests, covering more than 190 million acres. National forest lands are the single largest source of drinking water in the nation, providing fresh water to some 124 million people. In addition to giving many of us the water we drink, our forests also are cherished grounds of our nation's outdoor legacy.
Millions of Americans visit our National Forests each year to enjoy world-class hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, and recreation activities, and many millions more rely on them for safe drinking water. Don't let the Administration give up these precious resources by weakening the federal regulations.
Let the Administration and Forest Service know that we won't stand by as federal rules damage our National Forests.
Our National Forests have been a treasured American legacy since they were established more than a century ago to safeguard both forested land and water. They provide clean drinking water, vital fish and wildlife habitat, and world-class outdoor recreation opportunities for millions.
Unfortunately, the proposed planning rule lacks clear and enforceable standards to ensure the protection of the critical waters and clean drinking water sources within our National Forests. In order to better safeguard our National Forest System's freshwater supply, the Forest Service must strengthen the rule by (1) providing clear criteria for how to identify watersheds that need protection and restoration, (2) requiring a minimum buffer zone of at least 100 feet along streams and other waterways, and (3) setting out specific direction for what management activities can or cannot occur within buffer zones and watershed areas. The rule also needs specific guidance for how to manage and remove logging roads within watershed and riparian areas, since roads continue to be the most critical threat to water quality in our National Forests.
For the wildlife in our National Forests, the proposed rule is a major step backward and is significantly weaker than current wildlife standards. Unlike the current 1982 rule, this rule does not lay out safeguards for all species on National Forest lands. Rather than requiring the agency to maintain healthy populations of species that are well-distributed and connected across the landscape, the rule only requires the mere survival of species in decline and only requires those species already in trouble to be maintained somewhere within the forest area.
In addition, the proposed rule does not require the agency to use and rely upon best available science, allowing the Forest Service to have significant discretion in all decision-making regarding wildlife and habitat conservation. This will likely lead to decisions based more on politics than science.
In order to ensure strong protection for the more than 5,000 species of fish and wildlife that live in our nation's forest, the Forest Service's final planning rule must include mandatory wildlife conservation standards that will result in well-distributed and sustainable populations across our forests, monitoring protocols, and clear accountability measures.
Failure to include enforceable standards will jeopardize fish and wildlife populations and clean water, and threaten the recreational opportunities and other important benefits provided by these lands.
I urge you to strengthen the National Forest Management Planning Rule. Thank you for considering my comments.