Las Vegas Sun

May 18, 2021

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Editorial: Nature under siege

Recent federal court rulings suggest that judges across the West are growing increasingly impatient with Bush administration environmental policies that they say are failing to protect forests, water, wildlife and clean air.

According to a recent Washington Post story, rulings by U.S. District Court judges in California, Montana, Oregon and Wyoming have sharply criticized federal decisions that are direct results of Bush's environmental policies.

A California federal judge recently reinstated a Clinton administration "roadless rule," which had protected about a third of the United States' national forests from the construction of roads for logging and energy or mineral extraction. Bush had axed the Clinton rule, replacing it with a plan that allowed state governors to authorize such activity without consulting federal environmental protection laws.

A Montana federal district judge has lambasted the Fish and Wildlife Service for declining to examine the dwindling North American wolverine population. A federal judge in Oregon has blasted federal agencies for failing to protect salmon under the Endangered Species Act. And a Wyoming federal judge said the Bureau of Land Management sold energy leases in that state without considering wildlife and air quality data.

Yet the Bush administration's environmental assault continues. When the Senate reconvenes next month, the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee is to consider a bill that would allow federal agencies to bypass environmental reviews - as required by the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act - in order to issue logging permits in forests that have been damaged by such catastrophes as fire, drought and excessive rain.

The measure, which passed the House earlier this year, is being promoted as a way to raise money for a rural schools program that the Bush administration cut last year. But the plan will raise only about $3.4 million annually for the rural schools program that has previously been funded at about $390 million a year.

Logging in areas that have been damaged by disasters contributes to erosion, damages rivers and streams, introduces invasive species and further destroys habitat.

This is a bad bill that does more environmental damage, and raises less money, than its supporters claim - par for the course in Bush's affront on the natural areas that Americans treasure.