Make your voice count: Forest Service proposing to cut public out of project planning

The Nantahala National Forest is one of many that will be left vulnerable if the U.S. Forest Service enacts a new proposed rule to lessen environmental review and public involvement around forest management decisions. (© Bill Lea)

In June, the U.S. Forest Service proposed sweeping changes that would eliminate environmental review and public involvement for most of its decisions. But your voice matters in how we use our public lands, and we are urging you to make sure the Forest Service knows that by submitting a comment at OurForestsOurVoice.org.

The proposed rule, which would affect decisions made on projects in our forests such as road construction and pipelines, also includes a new loophole for commercial logging that would allow up to 4,200 acres—6.6 square miles—of clearcutting without prior notice or public involvement.

“National forest users—hikers, bikers, scenic drivers, and wildlife watchers—won’t know what’s coming until the logging trucks show up at their favorite trailheads, or until roads and trails are closed,” says Attorney Sam Evans, leader of SELC’s National Forests and Parks Program.

Although logging is one use of our national forest lands, logging in the wrong places and at the wrong times can cause severe harm to other important ecological, social, and economic values.

Those unnecessary harms can be avoided by considering public input, which is required by the nearly 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act—our nation’s bedrock environmental law that ensures thorough public disclosure of federal decision-making, and allows the public to provide input on decisions that impact our environment.

The proposed changes will be felt especially hard in the ecologically diverse and extremely popular national forests of the southern and central Appalachians.  New logging loopholes could allow the Forest Service to implement virtually its entire commercial logging program with no transparency or accountability. 

 “Balancing America’s many needs and uses on our public lands is hard work, but it is the Forest Service's most important job.  And to protect what matters to the public, the agency has to start by listening to the public,” says Evans. “The new proposal makes it clear that the agency is turning its back on that responsibility.” 

Please submit a comment to protect NEPA, and to tell the Forest Service your voice matters.

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