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“Protections for Wildlife are Pretty Weak”

That’s the word on the USDA Forest Service’s new draft planning rule on forests, dubbed a rule for the “21st Century” since the last one dates back to 1982 and the Reagan administration. Open for public comment until May 16, the proposal has been praised for emphasizing ecological restoration and a landscape-scale approach to issues such as fire management. Wally Covington, a forestry professor at Northern Arizona University and director of its Ecological Restoration Institute, told April Reese of Greenwire: “At large landscape levels, you can really make a difference in unnatural fire and unnatural insect outbreaks.” But Reese also reports that conservationists are dismayed that the rule fails to require “viable populations” of key species. Jane Danowitz, public lands director for the Pew Environment Group, said: “There are some good aspects to the rule, but when it comes to…key protections [for] wildlife and watersheds, they’re not strong and they tend to be left up to the discretion” of individual managers. As with the Interior Department’s shortsighted decisions on wildlife protections, the proposed rule reflects federal agencies’ capture by industry and their inability to grapple with the fact that forest management and species management are inextricably linked. Empty forests are dead forests.
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