Service Wants to Facilitate Mining, Logging and Grazing in National Forests

Aug 23, 2019

The Trump Administration wants to reduce the number of environmental assessments done and public comment periods held before approving leases to log, graze and mine in national forests.  As Sandy Hausman reports, a proposed change to the National Environmental Policy Act could speed up approval for those private sector projects in places like the George Washington and Thomas Jefferson National Forests.

It would be easier to get permits for logging, mining and grazing in national forests under a new proposal from the Trump administration.
Credit U.S. Department of Agriculture

Unlike National Parks, the federal government considers places like the Washington and Jefferson National Forests suitable for mining, grazing and logging – but first, the Forest Service must do an environmental assessment and allow the public to weigh in.   Critics say it’s taking too long to get sign-off, and the Forest Service now says it agrees.

“That is the Forest Service being a mouthpiece for industry," says David Sligh with the advocacy group Wild Virginia.  "They don’t want the public getting in their way when they want to get something like this done.”

Sligh is worried that a change in the rule would bar the public from commenting on proposed projects.

“People who live in or near and use these forests sometimes know as much about the problems with certain proposals as the forest service does,” he contends.

The Forest Service says it’s short on money, because so much has been spent to fight wildfires.  In 1995 15%  of its budget went to battling blazes.  Now that number is 57%.  As a result, it claims resources for environmental analysis are limited, and there is a backlog of more than 5,000 special use permits pending. That, says the Forest Service, costs jobs and economic development while limiting its ability to manage healthy forests. 

Monday, August 26 is the last day to comment on this proposal by going to

https://www.regulations.gov

or by e-mailing:  nepa-procedures-revision@fs.fed.us .

If you've already expressed your wishes through a form letter, be aware that the National Forest Service has said publicly it will ignore the more than 33,000 form letters it’s received.