During the current Congress, you can be sure that environmental issues will not just be ignored, they will be actively challenged by newly elected representatives.
Here’s freshman congressman Raul Labrador’s (R-Idaho) view on your public lands:
“I think the problem that we have in Idaho is that we have too much wilderness. We have too much land that is owned by the federal government, and the federal government continues to tell us what we can do with our lands.”
That sentiment now reflects the majority view of the House Natural Resources Committee. The new committee chairman, Doc Hastings (R-WA), brings to the table a “zero” (out of 100 percent) rating on environmental issues as measured by the League of Conservation Voters. Rob Bishop, (R-Utah), who now chairs the public lands subcommittee, supports overriding the Endangered Species Act to allow wolf hunting in Western states.
Under the banner of bringing jobs to rural communities, the new House majority will support opening the backcountry to ATVs and motorbikes. They will try to gut the Endangered Species Act, and they will stop in its tracks any and all efforts to lessen our dependence on climate-altering fossil fuels. The House majority will claim that if we don’t increase federal land logging, the forests will burn down. They will block reforms of the antiquated 1872 Mining Act and ensure that livestock get a free pass to over-graze our ranges and pollute our streams.
These are not people with whom compromise is possible; they are zealots who fundamentally do not believe in publicly owned land.
Although they have largely abandoned the privatization rhetoric, opening public lands to private economic interests continues to be their motivating ideology, one that will lead Congress to roll back key environmental protections and sell off our most valued wild places.
President Obama remains our best hope for stopping them, but only if he understands what is at stake.
I am often asked, “What is FSEEE’s most important action?” My stock answer: “Provide the U.S. Forest Service with adult supervision.”
Like parents, we insist that the agency obey the law, even when it’s inconvenient. We keep an eye on the future, ignoring short-term gratification for long-term ecological health. For more than twenty years we have been the voice that says “no” to those who want to destroy our public lands heritage.
And now our voice is needed more than ever. We must teach the administration not to trust nefarious legislators and insist that President Obama says “no” to those who want to run roughshod over our public lands. We must take the lead in preserving environmental values against the corrosive influences of political expediency and compromise.
The first signs of trouble are already evident. The assistant interior secretary for fish, wildlife and parks said last month that the administration will ask Congress to amend the Endangered Species Act to legislatively remove protection for the gray wolf. And President Obama’s pick to be the new head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says his agency will de-list Yellowstone’s grizzly bear, which will allow Wyoming, Idaho and Montana to declare open season on the iconic animal.
Endangered species conservation should be guided by science, not politics. The Endangered Species Act has a straightforward process for removing a species from protection when the biological data show that it is no longer threatened. But the administration wants to sidestep the Act because ... well, because a federal judge pointed out that its earlier attempt to remove the wolf from protected status was illegal. Rather than follow the law, Obama wants Congress to weaken it. Opening the Endangered Species Act to Congressional revision will raze one of our most influential and essential environmental laws.
To sum up, we now have right-wing ideologues running the key House environment committees and a White House that favors compromise over principle. That’s a perfect storm for very bad things to happen in our National Forests.
With your help, FSEEE can continue to provide the much needed supervision of the Forest Service. We will audit and publicize each and every effort by the new House leadership to undermine National Forest protection. Much of their dirty work will be clothed in spin (e.g., “loosening logging rules a little for forest thinning to prevent fires”) that needs to be exposed for what it so often is—lies. FSEEE’s unique voice as Forest Service employees gives us the professional credibility necessary to call the lies for what they are.
FSEEE will ensure that government
scientists can speak their minds on species’ real conservation needs. Ensuring that our Congressional allies have access to the views of government experts on wolves, grizzlies and other threatened species is critical. Civil servants play a vital role in protecting the public’s interests.
FSEEE will continue to hold the administration accountable for following our nation’s environmental laws. When the agency tried to outsource National Forest management to private interests, we were the only organization to step in and put a stop to it. One of our major ongoing cases involves protecting waterways and fisheries from toxic aerial firefighting chemicals that don’t effectively aid firefighters or protect homes. (Turn this page to read the latest news on our case.)
FSEEE will protect existing environmental regulations against those in Congress and the administration that wish to tear them down. We will continue our work to strengthen regulations currently under review like the National Forest Management Act planning rules. These rules, which govern every National Forest, form the backbone of plant and animal biodiversity protections. FSEEE will review the new proposed rules, provide substantive comments and fight to retain existing biodiversity protections.
FSEEE will keep you informed about the key initiatives and behind-the-scenes action affecting your National Forests. With our collective voices, we will convince the Obama Administration that our public lands are not just places to spend stimulus dollars on make-work projects. Our public lands are not just places to drill for non-renewable oil and gas. Our public lands are not just playgrounds for motorbikes and off-road gas guzzlers.
Our National Forests are a special legacy, held in trust by the U.S. Forest Service for this and future generations. At FSEEE, we take that trust seriously. FSEEE enjoys good relations with key senators who may prove our last and best line of defense during the coming two years. Ensuring that those senators understand what’s at stake and have the data and evidence that expose the other side’s lies is one of FSEEE’s critical tasks. Your help will ensure that Congress and the President do likewise.