August 26, 2019
Washington, D.C. — In comments to the U.S. Forest Service, 177 groups said the proposed changes to the agency’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) implementing procedures would gut this important decision-making tool by waiving requirements that the agency disclose environmental harm and involve the public. Among other things, the proposed rule would allow the agency to approve large-scale commercial logging and roadbuilding on up to 7,300 acres (11 square miles) of national forest land at a time without public input or comment.
The Forest Service’s sweeping draft rule broadens so-called “categorical exclusions” to exempt an alarming range of projects from public review, including logging, roadbuilding, oil and gas drilling, mining and power lines. Currently, categorical exclusions are reserved for routine projects that don’t harm the environment, such as hiking trail restoration or maintenance on a park building.