National forest plan facing adjustment
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” U.S. Forest Service officials in Glenwood Springs say a decision on a proposed amendment to the White River National Forest plan will be released this week, including a plan relating to water quality and to lynx habitat.
The long-contested plan appeared to have crossed its final hurdle late last year when Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth ruled on a series of appeals. But shortly after the ruling, David Tenny, U.S. Department of Agriculture deputy undersecretary for natural resources, ordered the White River National Forest to amend its plan and remove what he characterized as “redundant direction.”
Tenny, a Bush administration appointee, ordered changes after meeting with ski industry lobbyists in Washington, D.C. In a letter to the Forest Service, Tenny said the water and lynx standards conflict with other existing direction, including regional Forest Service lynx management direction and state water law.
Tenny’s order caused some head-scratching among Colorado-based Forest Service officials, and spurred questions by Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar and U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, who both pressed the undersecretary to explain how and why he reached the decision.
“The most disturbing aspect of this decision is that it was made without consulting, and in some cases overriding, the local Colorado agencies and individuals most involved with the White River area and the management plan,” Salazar wrote in a letter to Tenny’s boss, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns.
“In the end, this decision completely undermines the goodwill this five-year public input process created,” Salazar concluded.
The water standards Tenny ordered stricken from the plan essentially requires the Forest Service to make sure that any project proposed on National Forest lands either maintains or improves water quality. Tenny’s order to yank a lynx standard from the plan also drew howls of protest from wildlife advocates and conservation groups, echoed by Salazar’s letter.
According to Salazar, Tenny’s ruling overrode the Forest Service’s biological determination that activities within the White River National Forest “may affect or are likely to adversely affect” Canada lynx and their habitat.
Tenny also ordered the Forest Service to apply the remaining standards only if there is clear evidence that lynx “occupy” the area where a proposed project is located, “a condition that apparently has no scientific basis,” Salazar wrote.