A promising trend - science and policy are reunited

Juvenile Northern Spotted Owl. Photo by RaymaAnne, Flickr.

This year is shaping up to be a banner year for environmental policy. The Obama administration is making decisions based on sound science and reason, peeling away actions and policies created in the past administration that significantly weakened environmental protections. The administration is establishing a new hope for our forests and wildlife.

The introduction of the America’s Wildlife Heritage Act, by Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI) and Walter Jones (R-NC), is a massive and important step in the right direction for wild lands and the life they contain. This act is vitally important because it recognizes the need to include wildlife in forest management plans; it’s not just the trees that need protecting. It is a preemptive move that will prevent our common plants and animals from becoming endangered or threatened.

America’s Wildlife Heritage Act rides on the heels of at least three other major victories for the environment;

  • National Forest Management Act (NFMA) — This past June, the Northern District of California Court threw out Bush’s 2008 planning rule because it was in violation of the National Environment Policy Act, which requires agencies to evaluate the potential environmental consequences of forest management decisions, and the Endangered Species Act, which protects wildlife and their habitat.
  • Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR) — This plan would have increased the logging of Oregon forests by twofold and greatly damaging one of the last old-growth forests in the United States. The courts determined the plan did not abide by the Endangered Species Act regulations and WOPR was put to a stop in mid July.
  • 9th Circuit Roadless Decision — A critical decision, made in early August, by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals proved once again that the 2001 Roadless Rule is the law of the land, protecting around 40 million acres of national forests from road building.

These landmark decisions all have something in common beyond their environmental relevance — they were all fueled by science and public involvement. The America’s Wildlife Heritage Act shares this commonality. Recognizing the importance of the wildlife within our forests is an excellent first step. This act goes further by incorporating scientifically based wildlife objectives and monitoring programs for the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. Further, the Heritage Act will foster communication and cooperation between the Forest Service, BLM, and other agencies in order to ensure wildlife will not suffer as a result of jurisdiction conflicts.

This groundbreaking act will hopefully become yet another success for our wild lands, animals and plants, and Americans during this exhilarating year of science-based forest decision making.

photo: Juvenile Northern Spotted Owl. Photo by RaymaAnne, Flickr.