The plunder is getting worse
• Building new roads through the forest up to five miles at a time.
• Reconstructing old roads through the forest up to 10 miles a time.
• Bulldozing up to four miles of pipeline and utility rights-of-way through the forest.
• Closing roads and trails used for recreational purposes.
Adding illegally built roads and trails to the official USFS road and trail system.
According to estimates from a number of forestry and environmental organizations, the proposal would eliminate public and environmental review from more than 90 percent of all USFS projects.
The Forest Service says it needs to do this because, among other things, the agency has a backlog of “special use permits or renewals” that “are awaiting environmental analysis and decision affecting more than 7,000 businesses and 120,000 jobs.” [The jobs are not needed if in fact the US has a full employment rate of 3.5% unemployment. ]
Evans, who works in the Southern Appalachian national forests, went on to call the USFS proposal “an attack on the very idea” of public lands.
The USFS insists that the changes “meet both the spirit and intention of the NEPA,” but critics see the recent proposal as part of a larger trend.
In Vermont, recent USFS projects in the Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF) have sparked concern among a number of environmental organizations, including the VNRC.
“In the past, when the Forest Service has undertaken major projects on the GMNF there has been ample opportunity (in accordance with the NEPA) for public comment and involvement,” wrote VNRC officials in a May 3 blog post. “VNRC has participated in these opportunities and we have enjoyed a collaborative relationship with the GMNF.”
Altogether, according to the VNRC, “the Forest Service is planning to construct 84 miles of road (57 miles of new and temporary roads and 26.7 miles of reconstructed roads over the next 15 years) with no opportunity for public comment on the environmental impacts of these activities.”
Supporters of public and environmental review see the proposed NEPA changes as an attempt by the Trump administration to codify the Forest Service’s recent practices.
And many of them are fighting back.
“Please make your comments specific and unique to your concerns and relate your comments to a particular national forest, like the Green Mountain National Forest,” wrote VNRC officials on July 25. “The Forest Service will lump together (similar comments) and count them as one comment, so please make your comments unique to be counted.”
• online via https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=FS-2019-0010-0001 (Note: This info has been updated from the print version of this article.)
• or by mail to NEPA Services Group, c/o Amy Barker, USDA Forest Service, 125 South State St., Ste. 1705, Salt Lake City, UT 84138.
• or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Note: This info has been updated from the print version of this article.)
Reach Christopher Ross at email@example.com.