The Wilderness Society praises momentous speech by Secretary of Agriculture

Aug 14, 2009

SEATTLE – The Wilderness Society today praised U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack after he outlined the Obama administration’s vision for greatly improving the way forests are managed. Following are highlights of Vilsack’s remarks and reaction to those points by The Wilderness Society. All comments are from Mike Anderson, the Seattle-based attorney and senior resource analyst for The Wilderness Society.

Vilsack on Subject of Restoration: Stated that restoration will be the guiding principle of forest management under the Obama administration.

TWS Reaction: “It was a momentous occasion to see a secretary of agriculture state that restoring forests will be the top priority for the Forest Service. He recognized the connection between healthy forests and healthy communities. Investing in our forests today will pay countless dividends in the future. First and foremost, it will safeguard supplies of clean drinking water.”

Vilsack on Forest Planning: Announced that the administration will not appeal the June 30, 2009 court ruling that invalidated President Bush’s 2008 National Forest Management Act (NFMA) planning rule. (The court found that the 2008 rule violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.) He also said that he is instructing the Forest Service to develop a new forest planning rule that will emphasize restoration.

TWS Reaction: “We are especially pleased that the administration decided to refrain from appealing the court ruling that invalidated the Bush administration’s forest planning rule. That decision by a federal court in California gave a huge victory to wildlife and public involvement by negating Bush’s attempts to roll back protections for forests.”

Vilsack on the Roadless Rule: Reaffirmed yesterday’s announcement that the Obama administration will appeal an injunction placed on the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule by a federal district court judge in Wyoming. He also said that if the courts aren’t able to resolve roadless rule conflicts, the Obama administration will initiate a new roadless rule process.

TWS Reaction: “President Obama and Secretary Vilsack have clearly recognized that roadless forests play a vital role in providing recreational opportunities for people, protecting habitat for wildlife, and providing a defense against global warming.”