The US Forest Service is proposing to eliminate public participation and science-based analysis for nearly every decision affecting national forests, from timber sales to road construction to pipeline rights of way. It seems crazy to have to say it, but public participation is essential for good decisions affecting public lands. When the Forest Service considers allowing logging, road-building, mining, or fracking on our national forests, it must also measure how those uses would impact wildlife, clean water, backcountry areas, recreation on rivers and trails, and other social and economic impacts. This balancing act is impossible without listening to the people who would be affected by its decisions, in fact, until this proposal, the US Forest Service is required by law to listen to the people.
Under the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) signed by President Richard Nixon, all federal agencies – the US Forest Service being one – are required to consider the environmental impacts of nearly every decision they make. NEPA states that part of this consideration must include solicitation of public input, meaning everyone with a stake in the management of public lands has a right to be heard. Learn more about this rule and why the Forest Service’s attempt to dismantle it is so threatening.
The Forest Service is required by law to take public comments on its proposal to oust NEPA, but if we don’t speak up now, it could be our last chance. If the proposal moves forward, the public won’t receive notice or a chance to object to specific projects in the future. If you want to preserve the public’s right to comment on Forest Service proposals, please take action today. Your comments are due August 26.
The Conservation Alliance submitted the following comment letter to the Forest Service today:
August 7, 2019
To: US Forest Service
RE: Comments on Proposed Rule, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Compliance
On behalf of the 250 outdoor-inspired companies that comprise The Conservation Alliance, I am writing to express deep concerns about the Forest Service’s proposed changes to its implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Your proposal would dramatically limit the ability of the public to engage in decision-making that impacts our National Forests, and diminish the role of science-based analysis in nearly every management decision that affects these public lands.
The Conservation Alliance is a group of outdoor and related businesses that depend heavily on public lands and waterways as places where our customers use the products we make and sell. Our members are an integral part of the growing outdoor recreation economy, which generates $887 billion in consumer spending and supports 7.6 million jobs nationwide. Outdoor enthusiasts increasingly look to Forest Service lands for recreation, and to support a healthy lifestyle that fosters an appreciation for the natural landscapes you manage. Similarly, our member companies depend on these lands as community assets that help them attract and retain quality employees who want to live and work near open spaces that provide outdoor recreation opportunities. NEPA currently provides our growing outdoor community with the opportunity to weigh in on Forest Service management decisions that will impact both their lives and livelihoods. Your proposed changes would deny people this right at a time when interest in our public lands is at an all-time high.
Enshrined in NEPA is the mandate that:
NEPA procedures must insure that environmental information is available to public officials and citizens before decisions are made and before actions are taken. The information must be of high quality. Accurate scientific analysis, expert agency comments, and public scrutiny are essential to implementing NEPA.
Your proposal would cut the public out of decisions to approve:
- Commercially logging up to 4,200 acres
- Building up to five new miles of roads at a time
- Adding illegally created roads and trails to the official roads and trails systems
- Closing roads used by the public to access hunting areas, streams for fishing, and trails
- Bulldozing new pipeline or utility rights of way up to 20 acres in size
Actions like this run counter to our commitment to preserving and improving outdoor recreation opportunities on Forest Service lands. Denying public participation in these decisions disregards the fact that outdoor recreation is an increasing activity on our public lands, and one that drives local economies and supports employers like those in our membership.
We urge you to reconsider this misguided proposal. The US Forest Service should seek ways to encourage public participation in NEPA processes, not deny the public that opportunity.