ACTION ALERT: Forest Service Proposal to Cut Public Participation!
This is a follow-up to this earlier post.
The U.S. Forest Service (FS) has proposed major policy changes that would cut out environmental review and public involvement for most FS decisions, including logging, road construction and pipeline rights-of-way. The Forest Service must legally consider public comments on this proposal, but if it passes, this could be our last chance to comment on nearly all Forest Service proposals.
The deadline to submit comments is August 26, 2019.
The proposed new rules would allow the Forest Service to authorize most projects using a “Categorical Exclusion,” or CE. It would also eliminate public notice requirements for CEs and Environmental Assessments (EAs). This means that the FS could conduct thousands of acres of timber harvests with only an obscure note buried in the agency’s “schedule of proposed actions”— and post it online long after decisions have been made and shortly before implementation begins.
The FS’s proposed rule change would allow—without public input or environmental review—the following practices:
- Commercial logging up to 4,200 acres—this is so large that it would cover every single timber sale in the Southern Appalachians;
- Building up to 5 miles of new roads at one time, and closing access roads used by the public for hunting, fishing, recreation, etc.; and
- Bulldozing new pipeline, utility rights-of-way, and other “special uses” that are up to 20 acres in size.
Along with excluding the public, these decisions would also be made without critical environmental review and without considering alternative methods to meet the same project objectives.
Why is the Forest Service proposing this?
The FS argues the new rules will “increase efficiency of environmental analysis.” Basically, they believe they are wasting time with public comments and environmental review. However, we know from experience that the FS often proposes ill-conceived projects that include logging old growth, rare habitats, pristine wilderness, highly erosive slopes, and cherished recreational areas. In fact, it isn’t the public that is slowing the FS down; it’s their lack of funding and resources to conduct the necessary level of analysis.
Input from the people who are extremely familiar with our national forests and most affected by their management decisions is crucial. The Chattooga River watershed and the Southern Appalachian region are uniquely rich in biological diversity, and a 4,200-acre logging project without environmental review could be devastating.
The Forest Service must not be allowed to conduct controversial and unnecessary projects without being held accountable to the public. Now could be our last opportunity to speak up.
Comments are due August 26th. PLEASE SPEAK UP NOW!
You can quickly and easily submit comments using the guided tool at OurForestOurVoice.org.
Or you can submit comments directly to the FS in the following ways:
via their Web Portal;
by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or
NEPA Services Group
c/o Amy Barker
USDA Forest Service
125 South State Street, Suite 1705
Salt Lake City, UT 84138
Note: The Forest Service may not count non-unique comments. Please DO NOT submit form letters or petitions!
We also encourage you to contact your members of Congress to let them know your position on this proposal!
To read the full proposal, visit https://www.fs.fed.us/emc/nepa/revisions/index.shtml#proposedrulesupportingdocs.