Colorado groups join campaign for improved forest management rules

Colorado environmental groups were among 12 national and regional organizations that launched an ad campaign last week calling for an early Christmas present from the Obama administration in the form of enhanced protections for the nation’s 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands – including 14.5 million in Colorado.

The festive holiday ad running in Politico and the National Journal Daily (pdf) was produced by the Pew Environment Group and 11 other groups, including the Colorado Environmental Coalition. It’s aimed at maximum wildlife, water and climate protections and the strongest possible plan from the Obama administration as it nears release of new forest management rules under the National Forest Management Act (NFMA).

That law governs most Forest Service activity, and the new rules could be ready as early as January. The original NFMA rules were developed in 1982.

“President Obama has an opportunity to present the American public with a legacy that will stand the test of time: strong protections for our national forests,” Jane Danowitz, U.S. public lands program director for the Pew Environment Group, said in a release. “If well-protected, our national forests will be the gift that keeps on giving – providing clean water for millions of people, a safe home for fish and wildlife, and a natural resource for future generations.”

A new U.S. Department of Agriculture report found that national forests and grasslands are responsible for 223,000 jobs in rural areas and contribute $14.5 billion a year to the U.S. economy.

Sixteen Colorado conservation groups joined in the campaign, sending a letter last week to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (see below), who said “developing a new planning rule provides the opportunity to manage national forests and grasslands for the benefit of water resources, the climate and local communities.”

Thousands of holiday cards requesting better forest planning rules have been sent to the White House as a result of the campaign.

Dear Secretary Vilsack,

Sweeping new national forest management rules set to be released by the Obama administration in early 2011 provide a unique opportunity to continue the conservation legacy of President Theodore Roosevelt, who had the foresight to protect these treasured lands more than a century ago. Because of this vision, America enjoys 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands – including 14.5 million acres in Colorado. These are public lands that provide vital protection for fish and wildlife and clean drinking water for millions nationwide.

Today, our national forests and the wildlife and water resources they support, including those in Colorado, face unprecedented threats that even a visionary leader such as Roosevelt could not have anticipated. Our forests, wildlife and watersheds, which require comprehensive restoration to remedy the effects of mismanagement, also face new challenges associated with climate change and encroaching development.

The new National Forest Management Act regulations must effectively protect and restore our national forests as we face the challenges of the 21st century. They must serve to anchor Forest Service management by giving the agency clear non-discretionary direction, as has been the case with the current regulations which were developed in 1982. At the same time, the new regulations must use sound and current science to safeguard healthy fish and wildlife populations and their habitats, and secure safe, clean water by creating management standards to protect and restore streams, rivers and watersheds.

We see the development of these comprehensive national forest management rules as one of the most important environmental actions that the administration will take during this term. The course set by these critical rules will determine the future of our forests, wildlife and watersheds for generations to come.

We look forward to working with you to develop a new framework for managing our national forests in this century of which President Roosevelt would be proud.

Sincerely,

Josh Pollock
Conservation Director
Center for Native Ecosystems

Pete Maysmith
Executive Director
Colorado Conservation Voters

Elise Jones
Executive Director
Colorado Environmental Coalition

Bryan Martin
Director of Conservation
The Colorado Mountain Club

Ryan Demmy Bidwell
Executive Director
Colorado Wild

Caitlin Balch-Burnett
Colorado Outreach Representative
Defenders of Wildlife

Veronica Egan
Executive Director
Great Old Broads for Wilderness

Matt Reed
Public Lands Director
High Country Citizens’ Alliance

Tom Sobal
Director
Quiet Use Coalition

Roz McClellan
Director
Rocky Mountain Recreation Initiative

Megan Graham
Executive Director
San Juan Citizens Alliance

Christine Canaly
Director
San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council

Hilary White
Director
Sheep Mountain Alliance

Jean C. Smith
Associate Director
Wild Connections

Suzanne Jones
Regional Director
The Wilderness Society

Peter Hart
Conservation Analyst/Staff Attorney
Wilderness Workshop

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About the Author

David O. Williams

David O. Williams is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy,
environmental and political issues for the Colorado Independent since
2008, delivering impact journalism on a wide range of topics. A former
editor for the Vail Daily and Vail Trail, Williams’ work also has
appeared in numerous publications since 1988, including the New York
Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He appears periodically as a
guest on Rocky Mountain PBS and David Sirota’s show on 760 AM in
Denver. Williams is the founder, part owner and editor of Real Vail
and Real Aspen.

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