What You Can Do About the Executive Order That Could Devastate Our National Forests
There's still time for your voice to be heard
Historically, any plan in the United States for commercialized timber activity in excess of 70 acres has required a ton of bureaucratic red tape. But the good kind of red tape, the kind that includes careful environmental analysis and gives the public an opportunity to air its concerns.
Richard Nixon made sure of that process when he signed the National Environmental Policy Act into law in 1969. NEPA, as it’s known, encourages federal agencies to review the environmental impact of projects in public lands. As it relates to the US Forest Service, the agency has relied heavily on public comments for years, and worked faithfully to balance commercial logging with conservation and recreation.
But all that might be about to change. An executive order signed by President Trump last year stated that “All applicable categorical exclusions set forth in law or regulation for fire management, restoration, and other management projects in forests, rangelands, and other Federal lands when implementing the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act.”
That’s a mouthful, but you want to hone in on the phrase “categorical exclusions.” While the order was written under the guise of addressing raging wildfires out west, the Forest Service’s firefighting budget for 2020 has been slashed by an astonishing $530 billion. The real reason for those categorial exclusions, then, appears to be that it created a loophole through which American timber output can increase, virtually unchecked.
A recent proposed rule outlines a system where commercial timber activities of fewer than 4,200 acres are not subject to environmental analysis, or public comment. Let that sink in for a moment. Before, any tract of at least 70 acres was subject to review. Under the new rules, logging projects up to four-thousand acres can be blank-checked. That amounts to 6.5-square-mile blocks, and because the rule only applies to single projects, the Forest Service could conceivably allow logging companies to chop down massive swaths of connected land over time.
The other day, Ethiopia planted 350 million trees in 12 hours. Talk about doing their part, especially considering that country didn’t have a huge hand in getting us into the current climate nightmare. Whether you care about the future of the planet or simply have a few beloved hiking spots around this country, you should be upset. And while the public comment clause still matters (and exists), you should use it. Head here, where there are already over 15,000 comments on the proposal, and give them a piece of your patriotic mind.
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