02:00 PM

Obama administration seeks weaker wildlife protections on national forests, grasslands

Proposed National Forest Management Act regulations lift Reagan-era wildlife viability standard


  • Proposed forest planning regulations released by the Obama administration today fail to provide critical, concrete protections for water and wildlife
  • The administration’s proposal would roll back strong safeguards for wildlife conservation issued by the Reagan administration in 1982: a requirement that the U.S. Forest Service maintain healthy, sustainable fish and wildlife populations
  • The proposal would leave the decision of whether or not to maintain healthy, viable populations of many imperiled wildlife species at the discretion of individual forest managers, leaving the fate of hundreds of species uncertain
  • The proposal would allow individual forest managers the discretion to “give up” on protecting many needy species without facing accountability to the public
  • Defenders of Wildlife will be reviewing the proposal in greater detail and urging the Obama administration to set binding standards for safeguarding water quality and fish and wildlife habitat on our 155 nation’s forests and 20 grasslands, a total land area as big as Texas
WASHINGTON (02/10/2011) -

The following is a statement from Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife:

“Our nation’s wildlife is getting the short end of the stick in the Obama administration’s proposed forest policy. The administration appears to be looking to do the bare minimum for wildlife and is abandoning its responsibility for keeping common species common. The public expects a lot more from President Obama.”


Congress passed the National Forest Management Act in 1976 to reform the Forest Service and to ensure that the agency give due consideration to non-timber values, such as recreation, wildlife, and water. In 1982, the Reagan administration adopted wildlife viability protection in response to declines in the population and range of many species caused by the routine approval of logging and other development projects that did not take the need to conserve wildlife into account. The Reagan rule, currently in effect, supports populations of popular game species such as elk, moose, and black bear, and helps keep sensitive and rare species off the endangered species list by identifying and correcting wildlife population declines before species become imperiled.

In 2005 and again in 2008, the Bush administration tried to rewrite these regulations, lifting the requirement that the Forest Service manage its lands so that all native species can remain viable. Defenders of Wildlife challenged the Bush administration’s proposals in the courts. Ultimately, the court found that the Forest Service violated the National Environment Policy Act by approving the new regulations based on a faulty environmental impact statement that failed to analyze adequately the environmental impacts of the new regulations, and that it had violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to examine the effects of eliminating wildlife protection standards on protected species.  


Read our report that lays out Defenders’ expectations for the National Forest Management Act planning rule.

Follow Defenders’ forest policy expert, Peter Nelson, on the blog for more analysis of the regulations.


James Navarro, (202) 772-0247