Sacramento, CA -- Ronald Reagan was a movie actor who often behaved as if he were only playing President. George Bush is a president who often acts as if he were still understudy to the actor, Ronald Reagan.
Reagan was vilified for the quote that is the title of this post, although he actually said something slightly different regarding the proposal to create Redwood National Park; namely, "A tree is a tree. How many more do you have to look at?" But the hallmark of the Bush Administration has been a level of hostility to forests far exceeding any Reagan-era antipathy. Reagan, at least, left office having protected millions of new acres of wilderness. Bush will likely be the first President since McKinley to leave office with less of America's public lands safe for the public than were protected when he arrived.
The latest actor to lead California politics, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, decided today that enough was enough and that a tree is not just a tree. Schwarzenegger joined a host of governors from all over the country in telling Bush that his proposal to open America's remaining wild forests to logging, development and road building was bad public policy, and bad politics. Schwarzenegger, who is facing reelection, petitioned Bush to set aside all of California's remaining roadless wild forest and keep it off-limits to development. He also challenged the Bush Administration's proposed plans, released last September, for Southern California's four national forests. Those plans have been widely criticized for neglecting to address threats to natural and recreational values and for failing to protect roadless areas in the Angeles, San Bernardino, Cleveland and Los Padres National Forests. Together, those four national forest units comprise some 25 percent of California's national forest roadless area, yet they contain almost no commercially viable timber.
In addition to Schwarzenegger's petition, California Attorney-General Bill Lockyer has sued to block the Bush administration from opening roadless areas anywhere in the country to logging. And California isn't alone. Thus far, the Bush administration approach to wild forests has also been attacked by state governments in Washington, Oregon, Montana, New Mexico, Arizona, Virginia, North Carolina, Maine and South Carolina. Bush carried most of these states -- they just don't buy his forest policies. Nor does the Republican leadership in Congress, which this month huffily buried Forest Service boss Mark Rey's proposal to make the funding of rural schools dependent upon sales of national forest lands, starting with the liquidation of 300,000 acres.
Encouraged by the opposition to that plan of normal Administration stalwarts like Montana Senator Conrad "it's dead in the water" Burns and North Carolina Representative Charles "it never sees the light of day" Taylor, Congress simply left the authority to sell the lands out of the 2007 appropriations bill. Rey has promised to "repackage" the proposal next year. Meanwhile, rural schools don't have funding.
What's amazing is that the Administration can't come up with a new approach, even when its most faithful allies and party leaders can no longer swallow the reactionary rape and ruin that passes for environmental policy in the West Wing.