Las Vegas SUN: Forest Service May Streamline
RulesThe Associated Press
Friday, April 12, 2002
Forest Service May Streamline Rules
WASHINGTON -- The Forest Service is considering
speeding up land-management projects by
streamlining rules protecting the environment and endangered
species, according to a draft report.
Among other suggestions, the agency wants to
limit court challenges to its decisions, says the
draft obtained by The Associated Press.
A senior attorney for the Natural Resources
Defense Council, Nathaniel Lawrence, said the report
was a Bush administration effort to circumvent
"This is an agency that doesn't want to be
accountable to anybody," Lawrence said. "It wants to
rewrite the rules so that it can pay lip service
to collaboration and reserve to itself the final
unappealable judgment about what to do and where
to do it."
Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, who oversees
the Forest Service, dismissed the document as a
staff-level draft that won't get a serious
"This document had a short and not very useful
life, which has already ended as far as this
administration is concerned," Rey said.
The report was compiled to address what the
agency calls "analysis paralysis" or "process
gridlock,"which it defines as an inability to finish
projects, make decisions or handle other challenges in
a timely, efficient way.
According to the document, within two years the
agency wants to implement regulations limiting
external review of protections for endangered
plants and animals.
For instance, the Forest Service wants to allow
land-management projects in national forests to go
forward while it consults with federal agencies
about how to protect endangered species.
Currently, the consultation must be done before the projects
"This smacks of a ready, fire, aim approach,"
said Chris Wood, watershed programs director for
The report offered a list of "symptoms of process
gridlock," including complaints that important
work doesn't get done and it takes too much time
and money to plan projects. Such criticism
undermines the agency's credibility with the
"We need to make the case with both internal and
external audiences that the problem exists, that
changes are necessary and that their help in
making the changes is essential," the report said.
It also said the agency wants to set broad goals
and have "action plans" to get work done faster.
Wood, a top aide to President Clinton's Forest
Service chief, said these proposals would have the
exact opposite of their intended affect by
creating more public distrust, dissension and legal
"Addressing fundamental problems with redundant
reviews and other bureaucratic inertia is by
definition a good thing," he said. However, "this
proposed cure would likely kill the patient."
On the Net: Forest Service: http://www.fs.fed.us