Democratic News

Apparently eager to avoid Congressional and public scrutiny, the U.S. Forest Service has continued its holiday tradition of trying to bury bad news. Yesterday, just hours after Congress adjourned, the USFS issued a final rule that will eliminate environmental analyses and the public’s right to participate in forest management planning under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Under NEPA, public involvement and environmental analyses are required whenever the Forest Service wants to change the way it manages a forest – a process that occurs for each U.S. Forest every 15 years.  However, under the rule announced yesterday, any update (or significant change) to those individual forest plans would be exempt from NEPA review.
Said Jeff Bingaman (D-NM): “Having already undermined the forest planning process, the Forest Service now says that it will no longer require environmental analyses and public input under NEPA when developing new management plans for individual forests.  Its rationale is that these new forest plans will have ‘no effect on the environment.’  That is a sad but revealing admission – that the Forest Service has largely rendered meaningless what once was a robust planning process.  The public, including local communities, deserve a say in how their forest lands are managed.  They’re not getting that say under this Administration.”