Dear Barack: Here's your handy green agenda

A large group of environmental organizations send Obama suggestions for his first 200 days or undoing Bush policies and getting serious about modern forest protection.
A large group of environmental organizations send Obama suggestions for his first 200 days or undoing Bush policies and getting serious about modern forest protection.

Noting that "environmentalists see the Blue Tide [of November's election] as more of a Green Tide, New West reports that 98 environmental organizations (most of which reside in this part of the country) have sent the Obama transition team an ambitious list of steps that the new administration should take on its own, without Congressional action.

The proposed agenda for the first 100 days calls mostly for Obama to undo the Bush administration'ꀙs undoing of Clinton-era rules and plans. Examples are: restore and stop trying to undermine the Northwest Forest Plan, revise the new Spotted Owl recovery plan, accept the Clinton roadless rule, dump this year'ꀙs revision of National Forest Management Act regulations, and stop trying to undermine the Endangered Species Act. The environmental groups also call on the new administration to protect all remaining mature or old growth forest, and all large or old trees on federal land (something that a lot of people probably assume has already been done).

Implicit in all this — and explicit in some of it — is a willingness to defend the new policies in court. The Bush administration made a practice of settling environmental suits brought by interest groups with which it sympathized. Some of the same interest groups will probably sue an Obama administration. Not just coincidentally, the environmental groups urge the Obama team to 'ꀜaffirm and vigorously defend'ꀝ the 2001 roadless rule.

But the environmental groups'ꀙ wish list isn'ꀙt just about taking out the Bush administration'ꀙs garbage. Ideas for the second 100 days include forest planning that takes climate change into effect, and not pursuing certification for the national forests. In other contexts, environmentalists usually want certification that wood harvested from a forest is being grown sustainably. During his successful campaign for Commissioner of Public Lands, Peter Goldmark advocated Forest Stewardship Council certification of all Washington'ꀙs state forests. The enviros who wrote to Obama argue against certification of federal forests on the grounds that non-commodity uses of those forests — clean water, wildlife habitat, recreation — should take priority, while certification implies that logging is still the main event.

That may very well be an idea whose time has come. But it'ꀙs a huge policy decision that shouldn'ꀙt be made by executive fiat. Where will all the nation'ꀙs 2x4s and plywood, not to mention shipping pallets and toilet paper, come from? What will happen to all the timber towns whose sole economic raison d'ꀙetre is logging the nearest national forest? A Congressional debate would be full of naked greed and hypocritical special pleading. It would open new fronts — or re-open old fronts — in the culture wars. But this would be a major rethinking of our relationship to the nation'ꀙs forests, and that debate should be held. A lot of environmentalists — not to mention a lot of other people — have disliked Bush'ꀙs inclination to make big decisions behind closed doors. One hopes an Obama administration will make better decisions — and will make them in plain sight.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Daniel Jack Chasan

Daniel Jack Chasan

Daniel Jack Chasan is an author, attorney, and writer of many articles about Northwest environmental issues.