Proposed Changes to NEPA: A Disaster for Environmental Groups

Georgia ForestWatch has issued an action alert about the proposed changes to the NEPA process. And well they might. These changes would essentially put the environmental outfits out of business, which is probably the intent.

According to ForestWatch, this is the biggest threat yet to our most important environmental law. They list some of the likely outcomes:

  • Eliminate requirements for agencies to consider indirect or cumulative impacts, which would remove climate change consideration;
  • Enact new highly specific and technical requirements for commenting on projects, such as Foothills;
  • Replace language directing federal agencies to “encourage and facilitate public involvement in decisions” and replace it with the standard the public should be “informed”;
  • Allow applicants, such as fracking companies, to prepare environmental reviews;
  • And impact Forest Service activities from leases to meetings to watershed impact evaluation.

You can read their full evaluation here:

There is also a link there where you can comment until March 10.

It’s no secret that the Forest Service is frustrated with groups like ForestWatch getting in their way and questioning their plans to cut more and more timber. The Forest Service has long understood their mandate to be simply timber production – not recreation, not the preservation of ecologically significant areas, not hunting or fishing. And they seem to view the environmental groups essentially as idiot tree huggers whose wacky opinions are hardly worth consideration. The rise of so-called “ecological forestry” has hardly made a dent in their view of their mandate. As a senior Forest Service silvaculturalist told me a few years ago, “We’re tired of losing these lawsuits and having to pay court costs. For a while, we haven’t done anything. But now, we’re putting our foot forward again.” I suppose this is how they are doing it, by trying to change the rules.

I have some differences with ForestWatch – I think their opposition to the shooting range in Union County was elitist and asinine – but I think they’re right about this one. What I don’t think they see is that this is a necessary first step toward a goal that many politicians and special interest groups hold dear – the sale of our public lands.

In my opinion, the best hope for defending our public lands is offered by Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. They’re politically astute, and they’re leading the charge out West, where the greatest threat exists at present. Encouragingly, they have a much younger demographic than the average environmental group. And, more often than not, they’re winning. It’s a lot harder for the politicians to dismiss gun toting hunters than it is the hated “environmentalists.”

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