Obama Admin. Rolls Back Bush-Era Rules on Mining & Forests

By Eliza Strickland | July 21, 2009 6:59 pm

Grand CanyonIn one week, the Interior Department has issued two bold new rules that reverse decisions on mining and old-growth forests that were made during the Bush administration. In the first ruling, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Monday called for a two-year “timeout” on new mining claims on nearly 1 million acres near Grand Canyon National Park in northern Arizona [Los Angeles Times]. That directive overrides the Bush-era decision to open land near the park to uranium mining claims.

The moratorium on new mining claims near the Grand Canyon will give the Interior Department time to study the environmental effects of mining in that area; the department then has the option of banning mining there for 20 years. Grand Canyon Superintendent Steve Martin has said previously that he was concerned that uranium could get into the watershed and affect the fish in the Colorado River at the bottom of the gorge — and the bald eagles, California condors and bighorn sheep that depend on the canyon’s seeps and springs [Los Angeles Times].

In the other ruling issued last week, Salazar announced that the Interior Department is dropping controversial plans to dramatically increase logging in western Oregon’s forests, some of the nation’s densest carbon stores. The move scraps a Bush-era decision to rezone 2.6 million acres of Bureau of Land Management forests, which would have tripled current logging production and opened old-growth forests to clear-cutting [Climate Wire].

Salazar said that the old decision couldn’t stand up to legal challenges under the Endangered Species Act. The Bush administration had cut the size of critical habitat for the owl and revised the spotted owl recovery plan to make the logging increases possible [AP]. To rush the rule into effect before President Bush left office, the Interior Department had argued that it didn’t need to consult with wildlife biologists before making the changes, saying that it would instead consult them before individual timber sales. Salazar said a departmental review determined that the argument wouldn’t pass legal muster.

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Image: flickr/ trodel_wiki

  • Radmilo


  • Shaithis

    Just what the economy needs right now, higher prices for wood and natural resources.

  • YouRang

    Yeah, that IS what the country needs right now–a view to the future. Not cutting old growth forests for a temporary FIX (as in HEROIN fix) at the cost of increased topsoil runoff is a super idea. You Bush short-sighted morons really piss me off. There are ways to increase production without giving away public resources to Republican/Bush political contributors.

  • Shaithis

    Listen Lurch, I understand your desire to make Old Growth forests a monument to nature, but the fact is that these natural resources are better off treated as a crop rather than left alone to there own devices.

    Fragmentation of the environment has already taken it’s toll on this land and already severely limited bio-diversity in these old growth forests. Heck mother nature routinely tears down and rebuilds these forests, on her own, but since we put out every fire, man made or not we don’t see that. Except now when there is a forest fire, the results is catastrophic and takes even longer for the ecosystem to recover.

    Even thousands of years ago, Indians routinely burned or cleared HUGE areas of land to maintain prairie lands for grazing animals, how is that any different than what we do today. There are even more forest lands today than in the early part of the 20th century.

  • Shaithis

    The point being, rather than name calling and getting upset, you might want to consider how your own actions are doing more harm than good.

  • Boutime

    “The point being, rather than name calling and getting upset, you might want to consider how your own actions are doing more harm than good.”

    Yes! Perfectly said. It is surreal how upside down truth and misinformation is these days…

  • SteveC

    I applaud this action, but also agree that resources should be treated as crops. Proper management of the forest requires that cutting not exceed annual regrowth. The degree of logging allowed under Bush far exceeded regrowth, a fact which would inexorably lead to total depletion of the resource (possibly good for now, but very bad for later). What’s really unfortunate is that such a common sense issue somehow became politicized.


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