"Now the national planning rule that governs individual national forest plans is about to change, for the first time since the Reagan era. Scientists and environmentalists say many of the changes are improvements, but they object to a key change in the way the plan would protect wildlife."
"That part of the plan always has been controversial. The timber industry opposes it. Conservationists say it was vital to winning protection for old-growth forests. Now some ecologists and advocates say the Forest Service plan's change on this point would punch a hole through key protections.
The plan, which covers all uses of forest — including timber harvests, grazing, recreation and wilderness — is expected to become final in early March. Until then, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack could still make changes. But when Vilsack announced the plan last week, he called it "a strong framework to restore and manage our forests and watersheds and help deliver countless benefits to the American people." The plan is being published Friday in the Federal Register.
Conservationists say the wildlife provision is a crucial weak point."