Overview

The US Forest Service is proposing harmful rule changes that would eliminate public input and environmental assessments for most projects in our national forests. Help stop this by submitting a comment to the Forest Service.

Take Action

Submit your Comment to the Forest Service. By August 12th, click here to submit your comment at regulations.gov. View the proposed rule change here.

Note: You do not need to be an expert to comment. By law the agency must provide a written response to the comments it receives. In addition your comments may provide material for organizations that will likely sue the US Forest Service if this proposed rule is adopted. Background information and possible comments follow but personalizing your remarks enhances them.

Suggested Comment

If this rule change is adopted most commercial logging in US National Forests will occur without public knowledge or involvement and with no environmental assessment. This will lead to more logging in National Forests at a time when we need less. Forests provide habitat for our diminishing wildlife and sequester carbon which helps to reduce the effects of global warming.

This change adds and expands exclusions from environmental assessment and public comment requirements. The Forest Service says that up to 75% of its decisions would be affected by this change and that the public comment requirement would be eliminated for all but two percent of its projects. While the Forest Service claims it needs the proposed rule changes to increase efficiency, undermining governmental transparency, accountability, public involvement and science-based decision making is not going to make the Forest Service more efficient. It’s efficiency problems are a result of inadequate funding, high turnover and insufficient training.

As a result of the new exclusions “fuels and timber” or “ecosystem restoration” projects on 7300 acres or less would no longer be subject to environmental review or public comment! For many National Forests this size project accounts for the majority of its proposed projects.

The threat of worsening wildfires has become a pretext for logging on public lands though often it has no impact on reducing wildfire risks. We need more research on the best ways to protect our forests from the ravages of wildfires not the willy-nilly logging of our forests that this proposed rule change would increase.

The Forest Service has had a long-standing policy of only constructing temporary roads that must be decommissioned at the end of a project. Yet this rule’s new exclusions would allow up to five miles of new road or 10 miles of reconstruction of Forest Service roads with no environmental oversight.

Similarly, the conversion of illegal off-road vehicle routes to official Forest Service roads would be excluded from environmental review and public scrutiny. We do not want a rule change that makes it easier to build new roads in our national forests! The addition of more roads denigrates the quality of our forests and literally paves the way for more undesirable logging projects in the future.

One of the most egregious changes would eliminate the need for environmental impact statements for projects in Inventoried Roadless Areas and potential wilderness areas. These are the areas designated as most important for protecting fragile ecosystems and wildlife. Taking away protection of these areas by eliminating thorough environmental assessments is an abdication of the Forest Service’s responsibility to protect our national forests!

The fact that this rule change would allow oil and gas exploration that lasts less than one year to proceed without an environmental assessment or public comment is also a dereliction of duty. Tremendous damage to a forest and water bodies within forests can occur even if the exploration process lasts less than a year. Our priority needs to be developing alternatives to fossil fuels. This is what our scientists and public opinion polls are telling us.

While the Forest Service is claiming that this rule change will enable it to eliminate a backlog of more than 5000 permit applications, it will undoubtedly result in more litigation which could slow projects down even more. This proposed rule change would bring about poorer forest management, not improved efficiency.

There is no doubt that the Forest Service is under pressure from the demands of an increase in the number and intensity of wildfires. Currently the Forest Service is spending over half its budget on wildfire suppression (while 25 years ago it was only spending about 15% of its budget on fighting wildfires). The federal government needs to recognize that global warming is threatening our national forests and budget accordingly. It can not abandon stewardship of our forests as it prepares to fight more wildfires.

The proposed rule changes for the Forest Service need to be withdrawn. They will not accomplish their goal of improved efficiency but rather weaken protection of an important national resource.

References