Wilderness Society statement on Forest Service rule overhauling National Environmental Policy Act procedures
In an effort to beat the clock of the waning days of the Trump Administration’s authority, the Forest Service released its final rule today overhauling National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) procedures for the agency. The rule includes a suite of new categorical exclusions and other mechanisms that fundamentally undermine NEPA’s bedrock principles of government transparency, accountability, public involvement and science-based decision-making.
The following statement is from Alison Flint, Senior Legal Director at The Wilderness Society:
"The new categorical exclusions are a permission slip for industry to cut down trees and build new roads without having to engage local communities in the process. President Trump’s political appointees charged with stewarding our national forests are making a list-ditch effort to cut the public out of decision making and put extractive industries permanently in charge. We need the caretakers of our forests to prioritize science, local communities and conservation over special interest pandering.
“National forests are our single most important source for clean drinking water for 180 million Americans, yet the Forest Service’s rule would permit damaging projects that degrade watersheds and threaten drinking water. Now more than ever, vulnerable communities need NEPA’s public health protections to keep them safe and healthy.
“NEPA is one of our nation’s most fundamental conservation laws that allows for transparency, science-based decision making, and public input. It is clear the agency made some improvements since their proposed rules to address public feedback, however the final rules still undermine the fundamentals of the law. We will continue to defend against attempts to undermine NEPA and are exploring all avenues for fixing the Trump Administration’s attempt to dismantle NEPA protections on its way out the door.”