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.
Center for Native Ecosystems
Colorado Conservation Voters
Colorado Environmental Coalition
Director of Conservation
The Colorado Mountain Club
Ryan Demmy Bidwell
Colorado Outreach Representative
Defenders of Wildlife
Great Old Broads for Wilderness
Public Lands Director
High Country Citizens’ Alliance
Quiet Use Coalition
Rocky Mountain Recreation Initiative
San Juan Citizens Alliance
San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council
Sheep Mountain Alliance
Jean C. Smith
The Wilderness Society
Conservation Analyst/Staff Attorney