Forest Service to bolster protections for fish, wildlife habitat

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After striking out the last three times, the U.S. Forest Service is embarking on another rewrite of the basic planning rule that balances logging against fish and wildlife and clean water in national forests.

Echoing his speech earlier this year laying out a greener future for the national forests, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced from Washington, D.C. that work is starting on an environmental impact statement to take the place of the most recent one produced by the Bush administration that was struck down by a federal judge.

Learning from the past, the Forest Service is committed to a transparent, public process based on science, and was even starting a blog on its Web site so anyone could weigh in on the issues, said Joel Holtrop, deputy chief of the Forest Service in charge of the national forest system.

Besides the traditional issues of timber production, fish and wildlife habitat, and clean water, the process would also consider global warming, restoration of unhealthy forests, and the growth of wildfires on the 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands, he said.