U.S. Forest Service finalizes rule to cut science and public input; increase logging on national forests

Rays of light pierce the canopy of a forest near Mobile, Alabama.

The U.S. Forest Service announced today that it is set to finalize a rule that will cut science-based analysis, transparency, and public input from nearly every decision the agency makes, including logging, roadbuilding, and rights of way for pipelines and other utilities.

“Even after the public overwhelmingly opposed this rule and spoke up for science, transparency, and accountability, the Trump administration has shown yet again that it will cut every corner to speed up logging and extraction,” said Sam Evans, Leader of SELC’s National Forests and Parks Program.

Although logging is one of the many uses of our national forest lands, the wrong kind of logging in the wrong places can cause unnecessary harm to rare species, healthy forests and old growth, and recreation and trails. Those unnecessary harms are often avoided by considering science and public input, which have always been required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The new rule, however, creates loopholes that will allow most logging projects to bypass NEPA review.

“While the Forest Service’s rule is ripe for abuse no matter where it’s applied, it will be worst in the forests of the Southern Appalachians, where large-scale logging projects are wildly inappropriate,” said Evans. “These loopholes would cut the public out of 100% of the logging projects in these highly visited and biologically important forests.”

The rule also allows the Forest Service to build new roads without considering whether they can be adequately maintained to protect water quality, and it allows the agency to grant rights of way to private pipeline and utility companies, all without considering alternatives or seeking public input.

Adds Evans, “We won’t let this illegal policy go unchallenged.”

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