This is an archived article that was published on in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Trees are renewable by human cultivation in a relatively short time. But forests, especially old-growth forests, are not.

Once a forest is degraded or destroyed by logging, drilling, mining or grazing, it could take many decades, even centuries, for nature to restore its beauty, its ecosystems and its value as a watershed. That is if nature were ever again allowed to take its own course. Worse, the extinction of plant and animal species is irreversible.

That's why any American who has stood quietly in a forest and felt the power of its sensuous and spiritual pull should be delighted at a ruling by a federal district court. The ruling overturns the Bush administration's misbegotten forest rules that cut back on environmental reviews and protection of wildlife. The Bush rules, issued two years ago, also would wrongly limit public participation in forest management plans.

The pro-business Bush environmental rules are an attempt to dismantle a policy for national forests and grasslands dating to the Reagan administration. Those long-standing rules require government agencies to maintain viable numbers of plants and wildlife, particularly endangered species. They also demand careful analysis of the impact of any commercial use of public forests and grassland.

U.S. District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton said the Bush Forest Service violated the requirements set down in the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedures Act.

The judge said that those laws require a thorough environmental analysis, not only of a specific action such as putting up a cell-phone tower or drilling an exploratory oil well, but also of the adoption of new rules that regulate such activities. The probable impact of the Bush administration rules was never reviewed.

As important as the legal ramifications of the administration's action is its blatant disregard for what Americans, we who own these lands, want for them.

The protection of these irreplaceable lands is vital for wildlife, for pure water and for the quiet and solitude that they provide for hunters, anglers, hikers and all who visit them to escape the noise and ugliness that dominate so much of our world.