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USFS Moves To Update NEPA

The U.S. Forest Service has released a proposal to modernize processes for “how the agency complies with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),” according to a press release issued by the Congressional Western Caucus.  

NEPA requires a number of federal agencies to analyze the environmental impact of proposed actions or projects as part of their decision making.

Since NEPA’s enactment a generation ago, stakeholders in Western states adjacent to federally managed lands have been frustrated by the federal government’s seeming lack of concern in making managed areas more resistant to wildfires. Most stakeholders and state leaders point directly at NEPA’s rigid, virtually unchanging review process that blocks worthy efforts to actively manage forests.

Forest trees with clouds

The Forest Service’s NEPA review changes will give the agency new tools and increased flexibility to take action to address poor forest health and rangeland conditions. These revisions to NEPA will save time and taxpayer dollars while allowing the agency to better protect communities and habitats from catastrophic wildfire, said the press release.

Several members of the U.S. House and Senate commented in support of the proposal. 

“When Congress originally drafted and passed NEPA, it was to be a simple, streamlined process. However, it has grown into a bureaucratic and lawsuit-prone monstrosity that has far exceeded its original congressional intent. This proposed action will help the Forest Service cut through burdensome red tape and help to finally rein-in NEPA. In recent years, we have watched in horror as wildfires raged in the west, and Alaskans too have experienced similar catastrophes in our forests. This proposal will help save lives and protect property by allowing the Forest Service to better manage forests and prioritize projects requiring in-depth analysis and urgent action. I applaud leadership at the Forest Service for taking this seriously,” said SCI award-winning Congressman Don Young(R-AK).

“The average NEPA evaluation takes almost two whole years to complete. Utahns facing another dangerous fire season don’t have two years to wait for the Forest Service to do the maintenance and infrastructure work necessary to keep them safe. The NEPA reforms announced by the Forest Service today will save lives and protect our forest from devastating wildfires. NEPA has morphed into a complex, burdensome process that acts as a barrier to common-sense land management. While Congress needs to enact further reforms to this outdated process, I commend the Forest Service for taking positive steps to reform its NEPA regulations,” commented Senator Mike Lee (R-UT).

Safari Club International has supported regulatory flexibility for forest policy in the last two Congresses. SCI supports the proposed NEPA revisions for Forest Service fire suppression efforts. America needs healthy forests and wildlife habitats.

The proposed rule can be viewed here.

 

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