A proposal by the U.S. Forest Service (NFS) would severely limit the opportunities for
the public to comment on environmental analysis conducted by the agency in accordance with
requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). The proposed public
comment restriction is part of a proposed rule by the NFS “to increase efficiency in its
environmental analysis.” Public comments on the proposed rule are due August 12.
In an op-ed in the August 8 New York Times entitled “Why is the Forest Service Trying
to Evade the Public?”, Sam Evans of the Southern Environmental Law Center argued:

The law requires every government agency to look for less harmful ways of meeting its goals.
To that end, agency decisions must be based on solid science and made in the sunlight of
public accountability. Each federal agency has some leeway to implement the law, but the
Forest Service’s newly proposed rules would instead circumvent it, creating loopholes for
logging projects, road construction and even permits for pipelines and other utilities.

By eliminating the opportunity for public comment, the Forest Service is abandoning the
chance to get meaningful advice for free. In the short run, the proposal will be bad for forest
users, bad for wildlife and bad for local economies that depend on recreation. In the long run,
it will hurt timber economies too. The public tolerates commercial logging on public lands
only because passionate forest advocates have found ways, working with industry
representatives and agency professionals, to minimize harm and even to harness logging for
ecological good. If the Forest Service abandons the process that makes this possible, it will
undermine the cooperation that allows us to share our public lands.

ABRA Update readers are urged to submit comments about this wrong-headed
proposal by clicking on OurForestsOurVoice.org. The process is simple and straightforward.
Be sure to act by Monday, August 12. 2019.

Forest Service Proposes Limiting Public Comments in NEPA Reviews
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