This story, with the letter, is linked here
Walden Leads Forest Planning Rule Foes: Sees Good Chance of More Long Legal Battles
– Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said Friday he is leading a bipartisan chorus of House members in protesting the Obama administration’s national forest planning rule, saying it will lead to more litigation that will divert limited agency resources from badly needed job creation in rural communities.
On Feb. 14, the U.S. Forest Service issued its proposed “National Forest System Land Management Planning Rule.” The rule will govern the planning process for establishing management plans for the nation’s national forests and national grasslands.
This is the fourth attempt to implement a new planning rule since 2000. This proposed rule would have far reaching impacts on permitting processes and the current multiple-use standard for National Forest System lands. “This will place additional burdens on multiple use industries, including grazing, timber, recreation, and resource development,” Walden said in a news release.
Walden and Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), organized a bipartisan letter signed by 60 members to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to tell him that this new rule fails to avoid the pitfalls that have put the Forest Service in seemingly endless litigation for the last three decades. Taken together, the signers of the letter represent 77.7 percent of the nation’s 193 million acres of federal forest land.
“The proposed rule moves the agency further away from a simple, concise rule that can be understood by both agency personnel and the public and implemented with a minimum amount of contention among stakeholder groups,” the lawmakers wrote. “By adding more process requirements and introducing new technical terms, you are increasing the likelihood that like previous attempts at reform, the proposed rule will be tied up in courts for years.”
“We foresee limited federal dollars available for U.S. Forest Service operations being consumed by these processes to the detriment of the health of our federal forests and continuation of multiple uses of our federal resources,” the lawmakers wrote. “This, in turn, will reduce the number of jobs in our already distressed rural communities and further limit the amount of American wood and fiber available to aid our economic recovery.”
The lawmakers also noted in the letter that the rule will shift significant costs onto already burdened taxpayers in the form of legal fees and settlements.
On January 18, President Obama issued an executive order that requires agencies to assure that the costs of a rule are justified by the benefits achieved and that the regulations impose the least burden on society.
“We do not believe that the proposed rule complies with the President’s executive order,” the bipartisan group of lawmakers concluded.
They then asked the Forest Service chief to redraft the rule to make it “simpler and less encumbered with process,” and pointed out that it’s possible to meet the goals of the agency without bogging it down and further separating the public lands from the many taxpayers that depend on them for sustainable clean air, clean water, recreation, harvesting of fish and wildlife, grazing, and timber production.