A Christmas Giveaway
Byline: The Register-Guard
The Bush administration has given resource extraction industries the equivalent of the Hope Diamond for Christmas. It has adopted sweeping new regulations that relax protections for wildlife and that eliminate requirements for scientists - and the public - to weigh in on logging, mining and other activities.
It will take months, even years, to understand the damage that will result from the replacement of these rules, most of which were put in place by the Reagan administration.
The most devastating hit may be the decision to reverse a commitment at the heart of decades of battles over the Northwest's old growth forests and spotted owls - that federal officials maintain "viable populations" of wild animals in more than 191 million acres of national forests.
Another major revision will allow forest supervisors to bypass complex, time-consuming environmental impact statements in developing individual forest management plans. If supervisors yield to industry pressures - and those of an industry-embracing administration - and forego formal scientific surveys, the negative effects on plant and animal life will be lasting and profound.
Administration officials describe the changes as a "dynamic process" that "emphasizes science and public involvement" - a familiar spin technique that puts environmentally friendly (think "Clear Skies") labels on draconian actions. But such actions as reducing protections for wild animals and eliminating mandatory scientific review and public comment periods hardly fit this upbeat characterization.
The administration's top environmental officials claim that Bush's re-election gave them a broad mandate to make these radical changes in the ways that forests are managed and wildlife are protected - the same rationale they're using to justify rollbacks of regulations protecting the nation's air and water. …