For Immediate Release
Date: February 10, 2011
Contact: Nathan Newcomer
Phone: 505-250-4225
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

NMWA letterhead email

New Forest Service Planning Rule Weakens Current Standards

Administration doles out the bare minimum, instead of the bear essentials

Today, the USDA Forest Service issued its long-awaited proposed Forest Planning Rule, which seeks to establish a new national framework to develop land management plans. While offering some important guidance to the management of America’s national forests, the proposed planning rule fails to provide critical concrete protections for water quality and wildlife.

“The Obama administration appears to be looking to do the bare minimum for wilderness, water and wildlife,” said Nathan Newcomer, Associate Director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. “Instead, this administration must give our forests the bear essentials.”

With the national forest system facing unprecedented threats from climate change and energy development, the strong protections for water, wildlife, and wilderness that have been in place for the better part of three decades are needed now more than ever.

Promulgating a new forest management policy is one of the most important environmental actions that the Obama administration will be taking during its tenure.  The administration’s final policy should include strong, clear, national standards for safeguarding water quality and valuable fish and wildlife habitat so that our forests – and the critical resources that they provide – are adequately protected.


  • Proposed forest planning regulations released by the Obama administration today fail to provide critical, concrete protections for water and wildlife.
  • The administration’s proposal would roll back strong safeguards for wildlife conservation issued by the Reagan administration in 1982: a requirement that the U.S. Forest Service maintain healthy, sustainable fish and wildlife populations.
  • The proposal would leave the decision of whether or not to maintain healthy, viable populations of many imperiled wildlife species at the discretion of individual forest managers, leaving the fate of hundreds of species uncertain.
  • The proposal would allow individual forest managers the discretion to “give up” on protecting many needy species without facing accountability to the public.


Congress passed the National Forest Management Act in 1976 to reform the Forest Service and to ensure that the agency give due consideration to non-timber values, such as recreation, wildlife, and water. In 1982, the Reagan administration adopted wildlife viability protection in response to declines in the population and range of many species caused by the routine approval of logging and other development projects that did not take the need to conserve wildlife into account. The Reagan rule, currently in effect, supports populations of popular game species such as elk, moose, and black bear, and helps keep sensitive and rare species off the endangered species list by identifying and correcting wildlife population declines before species become imperiled.

In 2005 and again in 2008, the Bush administration tried to rewrite these regulations, lifting the requirement that the Forest Service manage its lands so that all native species can remain viable. Defenders of Wildlife challenged the Bush administration’s proposals in the courts. Ultimately, the court found that the Forest Service violated the National Environment Policy Act by approving the new regulations based on a faulty environmental impact statement that failed to analyze adequately the environmental impacts of the new regulations, and that it had violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to examine the effects of eliminating wildlife protection standards on protected species.

Contact info:

Nathan Newcomer
Associate Director
New Mexico Wilderness Alliance
142 Truman St. Suite B1
Albuquerque, NM 87108
505-843-8696, ext. 106
505-843-8697 fax