The delay of the forest management plan for the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests has now caught the attention of Senator Ken Salazar. Last week the draft forest management plans for these forests was shelved while forest officials reviewed it for compliance with the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
Salazar sent a letter to Mark Rey, Undersecretary of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), who is assumed to have made the decision to remove the draft document from public review. “There will be widespread skepticism if the plan is now pulled back for revision,” wrote Salazar. The plan had been in the works for over four years and was “a model for public information and involvement,” Salazar noted in his letter.
On Sunday, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, usually a stalwart of Republican policy, slammed the forest service decision and added more fuel to the fire: “To wit, the GMUG draft management plan was postponed because under the whip hand of longtime timber industry lobbyist and Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey, the Bush administration is bound and determined to open every conceivable acre of western public lands possible to domestic energy development, and damn the consequences.”
New regulations in the 2005 Energy Policy Act allow forest supervisors to approve logging, oil or gas drilling, and road building without having to consider the impact on wildlife species or content with enforceable standards for caps on logging, drilling and other important resource protection. One of the Energy Policy’s new regulations replaces the existing environmental review and administrative appeals process with a very superficial opportunity to object to forest plans, according to environmentalist claims.
Senator Salazar will have an opportunity to discuss the matter in person with Undersecretary Rey. Salazar is to question Rey on Wednesday before the Agriculture Committee’s subcommittee on Forestry, Conservation and Rural Revitalization.