Death by a Thousand Cuts: A Timeline of the Bush Administration's Pro-Logging Policies

Feature story - May 20, 2004
Take a look back at the Bush administration's actions that have endangered America's national forests.

Since his inauguration, President Bush has been chipping away at every piece of environmental protections for our nation's forests. From exempting the Tongass National Forest from the Roadless Rule, to using greenwashing doublespeak to deceive the public, Bush as proven he has no interest in our nation's natural heritage, except on how to exploit it.

January 20, 2001: Since Day One-Rollin' Back Environmental Safeguards

On his inauguration day, President Bush orders all federal agencies to cease proposing new regulations, withdraw all new regulations not yet posted in the Federal Resister and postpone implementing for 60 days any new regulations that had been published. With a roaring start, the Bush administration's full tilt systematic dismantling of the safeguards that protect our nation's clear air, clean water, national forests and other public lands is full-speed ahead. These safeguards had been put in place over many decades by both Republican and Democratic administrations.

May 4, 2001: Promises, Promises…

The Bush administration announces that it will uphold the popular Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which protects 58.5 million acres of intact wild forests in our national forest system from most forms of logging and road construction. This law passed with overwhelming public support. However, it was soon to be reversed.

July 10, 2001: Pickin' the Right Fox for the Henhouse

President Bush nominates Mark Rey - a long-time timber industry lobbyist - to oversee the U.S. Forest Service as Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. After serving 18 years as the logging industry's principle lobbyist, Rey made his name in politics as a staff member with the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. There, he was the "key architect" (National Journal, 1997) of the "logging without laws Salvage Rider," which The Washington Post called, "arguably the worst piece of public lands legislation ever." Under the Salvage Rider - with environmental laws suspended and meaningful pubic participation banned - enough trees were cut from America's national forests to fill log trucks lined up for over 6,800 miles.

August 12, 2001: Promises Broken

The Forest Service - led by Bush-appointed Chief Dale Bosworth - issues a policy that temporarily exempts Alaska's Tongass National Forest and 11 other national forests from the Roadless Rule until all logging industry legal challenges to the rule are resolved. In this policy, Bosworth, in a misuse of authority, allows road building and logging in roadless areas on all other national forests at his discretion while the legal challenges are under review.

October 2, 2001: The Fox Assumes Control of the Henhouse

Former logging industry lobbyist Mark Rey is sworn in as Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, giving him the responsibility for managing America's 155 national forests and 19 national grasslands on 192 million acres of public lands.

November 27, 2001: Cutting the Public Out of Public Lands

In order to push through one of the largest logging projects in agency history - the Bitterroot National Forest's Burned Area Recovery Plan - Forest Service Chief Bosworth circumvents the public appeals process by having his boss, Mark Rey, sign the massive logging plan. This blatant disregard for public involvement left the 4,400 citizens who commented on the draft plan out in the cold. A federal judge later criticized the Forest Service's move by saying the agency had elected "to take the law into its own hands."

December 14, 2001: Promises Broken...Yet Again

The Forest Service announces new guidelines that further reduce protections for roadless areas. Smaller, undeveloped forests adjacent to larger roadless areas are no longer protected from development. The changes also end mandatory environmental impact reviews of logging and road building impacts on roadless areas as well as squash the requirement for public participation in project planning.

January 18, 2002: See No Evil

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under former industry lobbyist, Gale Norton, concludes that 150 years of logging "has not appreciably affected" spotted owls, despite the fact that 90 percent of the spotted owl's habitat has been destroyed. This opens the floodgates for increased logging in the last ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest.

February 6, 2002: Giving Away the Public's Land

President Bush's 2003 budget authorizes the creation of "charter forests" whereby the management of publicly-owned national forestland would be turned over to local private partnerships.

April 12, 2002: Taking Out the Teeth

A draft report by the U.S. Forest Service reveals that the agency intends to "streamline" rules protecting the environment and limit public challenges to its decisions. Within two years the agency would implement regulations limiting external review of the impacts of projects on endangered species.

August 22, 2002: Horizontal Forests Initiative

President Bush unveils the so-called "Healthy Forests Initiative," which would limit citizen involvement and undermine the nation's environmental laws in order to dramatically increase logging in national forests. Predictably, the logging industry - which has given more than $10 million in campaign contributions to Bush and the Republican Party since the 2000 election cycle - hails the initiative as the best thing since the invention of the chainsaw and the perfect way to restore "forest health."

August 30, 2002: Toss Another Fox in the Henhouse

Allan Fitzsimmons is handpicked by the Bush administration to serve as Wildlands Fuel Coordinator for the Department of Interior. Fitzsimmons has published articles denying the existence of ecosystems and stated that the extinction of the nation's 1,200 threatened and endangered species, "would be a disconcerting loss but would not constitute a crisis." Fitzsimmons not only lacks experience in the field of forest ecology and fire management, but also considers efforts to manage ecosystems to be an opportunity for new federal controls that infringe on economic activity and property rights.

September 30, 2002: If You Can't Play By the Rules, Eliminate the Rules

Reacting to a federal court ruling halting timber sales in the Pacific Northwest ancient forests, the Bush administration proposes to eliminate those regulations because the government had failed to comply with environmental regulations.

November 26, 2002: Happy Thanksgiving for the Timber Industry

The Bush administration proposes a radical rewrite of the regulations implementing the National Forest Management Act. The rewrite would eliminate habitat protection, public participation and scientific review in order to increase logging, mining, grazing, drilling and other commercial activities on 192 million acres of national forests.

December 11, 2002: Greasing the Skids for More Logging

The Bush administration proposes "streamlining" rules by eliminating environmental regulations on logging projects whenever the Forest Service claims that the purpose of the logging is to reduce fire risk. The change includes limiting the ability of the public to challenge illegal logging projects on public lands, despite the fact that a recent Department of Agriculture report found, "The removal of large, merchantable trees from forests does not reduce fire risk and may, in fact, increase such risk."

January 27, 2003: From the Redwood Forests …

Under the guise of "fuel reduction," the U.S. Forest Service issues a draft plan to resume the logging of giant ancient sequoia trees in the Giant Sequoia National Monument and two national forests in California's Sierra Nevada mountain range. The plan would sidestep wildlife and watershed protections to allow logging companies to cut down enough of the nation's oldest and grandest trees to fill more than 2,000 log trucks every year.

February 28, 2003: A Big Fat Zero

The Bush administration completes a court-ordered analysis of potential wilderness areas on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska - part of the world's largest remaining coastal temperate rainforest. The Bush administration eliminates protections for the 9.8 million remaining acres of intact ancient temperate rainforest, opening them to road construction and logging.

May 20, 2003The White House Orders "More Logging"

During a White House ceremony, President Bush urges the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the "Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003." This deceptively-named bill restricts citizen involvement, circumvents key environmental laws, ties the hands of judges and increases taxpayer subsidies by $125 million. Moreover, the bill includes no specific provisions or resources to help rural homeowners protect themselves from wildfire.

May 27, 2003: Don't Seek and Ye Shan't Find

The Bush administration allows logging companies in Oregon to stop requiring federal land managers to survey for sensitive plant and animal species before allowing logging in ancient, old-growth forests.

May 30, 2003: Loopholes for Larger Logging Trucks The Bush administration puts new regulations in place exempting the Forest Service from analyzing environmental impacts on logging projects of up to 1,000 acres. Incredibly, the administration claims that logging an area the size of 930 football fields will result in "no significant environmental impact." The exemptions apply to projects throughout national forests, including the remote backcountry.

May 30, 2003: Administration to Endangered Species: "Don't Let the Door Hit you on the Way out!"

The Bush administration continues undermining the protection for threatened species with a proposal enabling the Forest Service to avoid consulting federal wildlife agencies during the planning of logging projects and other developments that may jeopardize these species and their habitat.

June 5, 2003: Triple the Logging in California's Sierra Nevada Mountain Range

The Bush administration announces it will scrap the current Sierra Nevada Framework - a plan adopted in 2001 following eight years of scientific study - with another that will triple logging levels in 11 national forests in California. The Bush plan opens spotted owl reserves to logging and allows the cutting of fire-resistant trees as large as eight feet in circumference under the guise of "fuel reduction."

Mark Rey announces the Bush administration will completely dismantle the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. According to Rey, the administration will settle a lawsuit with the logging industry and remove protection under the Roadless Rule for 14.7 million acres of ancient rainforest in Alaska's Tongass and Chugach National Forests. He also announces the Bush administration will give governors the ability to open national forest wilderness areas in their states to the logging industry.

Roadless Rule announcement from President Bush

June 9, 2003: Promises Shattered

July 23, 2003: More Loopholes for More Logging

During a press conference with the media and the logging industry, Mark Rey announces a new regulation allowing the Forest Service to log live trees on 70 acres and dead, dying or diseased trees on 250 acres with absolutely no environmental analysis or public input.

August 21, 2003: What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Clearly reveling in the practice of breaking negotiated agreements, the administration announces plans to settle a timber industry lawsuit over the Northwest Forest Plan. The court-approved plan protects old-growth in Pacific Northwest national forests. Although the administration had been chipping away at the plan all year, caving-in on the suit gave them the opportunity to dismantle the plan.

November 12, 2003: Toasted Biscuit For Sale

The administration and the Forest Service propose one of the largest post-fire logging projects in modern history on the Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon. The "Biscuit Fire Recovery Project" calls for logging over one-half million board feet of timber from the Wild Rivers Area that could result in the disqualification of over 60,000 acres of potential wilderness. This is enough timber to fill logging trucks bumper to bumper from Canada to Mexico.

November 21, 2003: Senate Democrats Wimp Out

A so-called "compromise version" of the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003 passes the Senate on a "voice vote" after Democrats Feinstein (D-CA) and Wyden (D-OR) cut a deal with Republican backers. The House of Representatives passes the bill later in the day. Some terrible provisions of the bill are watered down, but to quote George Bush Sr., "It's baaad!"

November 26, 2004: Happy Thanksgiving. Let's Sneak Another One Out

Bush continues his sleazy tactic of announcing anti-environment rule changes when the media will be inattentive. On the day before Thanksgiving, plans are revealed to gut the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) which has guided planning on 155 national forests since 1976.

December 4, 2003: Signing of the "No Tree Left Behind" Bill

With great fanfare and Feinstein and Wyden nowhere in sight, Bush signs the deceptively named, "Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003."

December 23, 2003: Hope This Present Reaches You Before Christmas

For Christmas, Bush decided to give the timber industry much of the best remaining old-growth in Alaska's Tongass National Forest. The Tongass was exempted from the Roadless Area Conservation Rule and the lower 48 states are next on the chopping block.

January 2004: Happy No ESA Year!!!

This year's resolution is to dismantle the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Forest Service proposes to drop key protections for lynx on 18 national forests and four BLM units in the West against the recommendations of its own biologists.

January 22, 2004: Bush Californicates the Sierra Nevada Framework

The Sierra Nevada Framework ensured sound management practices in 11.5 million acres of the Sierra Nevada National Forest. The Bush administration significantly changes the Sierra Nevada Framework to allow increased logging which triples the levels of logging in the region and allows cutting of large, old-growth trees.

March 23, 2004: Why not Screw the Northwest While We're At It?

To further demonstrate its ability to overlook water quality, wildlife and fisheries in favor of giving industry more trees to log, the Bush administration overhauls the Northwest Forest Plan's Aquatic Conservation Strategy and exempts logging projects from complying with existing water quality objectives. It also eliminates the "Survey and Management" provisions of the plan which required consideration of logging effects on over 500 imperiled species.

April 28, 2004: One Fish, Two Fish, Bush Fish, No Fish

The Bush administration decides to count hatchery-bred (incubated then let free into the wild) fish during the same time it decides stream-bred wild salmon are entitled to protection under the Endangered Species Act. Will the Administration's next assault on the ESA entail counting factory-farmed salmon?