By GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER
In 92 pages of paperwork leaked to major newspapers Monday, U.S. Forest Service officials detailed plans to reverse environmental protections in Sierra Nevada national forests protections the agency spent $20 million and a decade of research putting in place.
Drafts of the Bush administration's lengthy plan were delivered "in a plain brown envelope" to environmental groups from a "concerned Forest Service official."
The documents detailed the administration's plans to rewrite the Sierra Nevada Framework a plan passed in the last days of the Clinton administration, prioritizing wildlife and recreation above logging and grazing on national forests in the Sierra Nevada.
Once it took effect in January 2001, the Framework reduced the amount of logs available for cutting and grass to be munched on forest land. Almost immediately after taking office, President George W. Bush ordered a 1,500-page plan placed under review by the Forest Service.
After two years, the Framework review team is expected to announce its findings in March. The recommendations would be up for public comment before the Forest Service's Regional Forester Jack Blackwell announces his decided changes. That announcement should come in September. Blackwell oversees 18 forests in California, including the Stanislaus.
The Framework review team traveled through the 400-mile mountain range searching for input from affected communities and interest groups.
One stop came at last summer's Natural Resource Summit in Sonora, where many loggers and ranchers vented their frustration with the Framework's tougher regulations. Others complained that new logging restrictions prevented removal of fire fuels to avoid a catastrophic blaze.