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U.S. Proposes New Owl Rule; Environmentalists Condemn It

<i> Associated Press</i>

Environmentalists on Wednesday condemned the Bush Administration’s latest attempt to wipe out a federal wildlife regulation that is protecting the northern spotted owl at the expense of Northwest logging.

“The hypocrisy of claiming to be an environmental President” and then perpetrating such a rule change “is corrupt, crooked and rotten,” said Tim Hermach of the Native Forest Council in Eugene, Ore.

U.S. District Judge William Dwyer of Seattle ruled in May that any Forest Service timber cutting in national forests containing the threatened bird would be illegal because the agency failed to complete a required environmental study required under the National Forest Management Act.

The government is appealing the injunction won by the Seattle Audobon Society. Justice Department lawyers are scheduled to appear today before a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle.

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The Administration maintains NFMA protections were voided when the owl was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in June, 1990.

But because Dwyer disagreed, Assistant Agriculture Secretary James Moseley proposed Tuesday through an administrative rule change that the government be freed from the NFMA mandates when endangered species protection is in place.

Under the proposal, the Forest Service still would abide by the Endangered Species Act. But it would be exempt from NFMA requirements that the service maintain viable populations of all species found on its forest lands.

“I find it pretty outrageous,” Karin Sheldom of The Wilderness Society said Wednesday. “They are trying to undo something by regulation that they failed to accomplish in court.”

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