By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog.
The Obama administration's temporary timeout on new development of road-less areas within national forests is a very good beginning. But it's a fraction of what the Administration needs to do to live up to the President's promise to protect the environment. The timeout was issued yesterday by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who will have to personally approve any new project:
Vilsack's order, which will be in effect for a year, is the latest turn in an eight-year-old battle over 58.5 million acres of pristine woods. President Bill Clinton made these areas off-limits in 2001, but President George W. Bush effectively reopened some in 2005. That led to a series of court cases that ultimately replaced the national policy with a patchwork of regional rules.
President Obama has made history committing federal funds to green research and alternative energy sources. That, too, is a great step forward. But there is much more to undo. As USA Today's Traci Watson has pointed out:
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar canceled Bush Administration drilling plans for public lands in Utah and Wyoming. He's also re-evaluating President Bush's offshore drilling plan.
The administration needs an energy plan, and it will be difficult to come up with one that satisfies the industry and environmentalists.
The President has pledged to make science-based decisions in terms of environmental preservation and elsewhere. That is such a stark difference from the Bush Administration's slash-and-burn attitude toward the environment, anyone would look good by comparison.
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By Bonnie Erbe