The September 11 tragedy focused the nations attention on immediate problems of Afghanistan and anthrax. But significant environmental decisions, rules, and announcements continued apace, below the publics radar.
There were a few bright spots: In November, EPA administrator Christie Whitman announced that the Bush administration would uphold strict limits on arsenic in water, reversing its earlier decision to suspend them. And the agency is moving ahead with plans to force General Electric to dredge 1.65 million cubic yards of toxic PCBs from the Hudson River, despite protestations from the company.
But mostly, it has been business as usual: In October, the Bush administration rescinded the governments authority to prevent miners from digging on fragile public land. Mark Rey, undersecretary of agriculture for natural resources and environment, told a mining trade group that he wants to "reinvigorate" mineral exploration in national forests.
National Park Service officials announced in December that the plan to phase out snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks will likely be delayed for several yearsdespite overwhelming citizen support.
Also in December, Rey, a former top timber industry lobbyist, approved logging on 46,000 acres of fire-scarred woodlands in Montanas Bitteroot National Forest, circumventing the usual citizen appeals process. The agency wants to log at least 181 million board feet from the Bitterroot (more than the total harvest of the last 15 years) despite opposition from local residents and scientific evidence that shows logging increases sediment in streams. Calling Reys move "impetuous," a federal judge temporarily blocked the plan.