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Trump Administration Moves to Limit Public Input, Environmental Review

A proposed change to federal environmental policy could fast-track logging on public lands in areas such as the Los Padres National Forest. (Mason Cummings/The Wilderness Society)
A proposed change to federal environmental policy could fast-track logging on public lands in areas such as the Los Padres National Forest. (Mason Cummings/The Wilderness Society)
August 27, 2019

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — National forests, including California's Los Padres and many more, may see more commercial projects in the near future if a new rule change proposed by the feds goes through. The public comment period on changes to the National Environmental Protection Act ended Monday, and more than 36,000 people flooded the site, overwhelmingly condemning the move to limit environmental review and public input.

B.J. McNanama, organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network, said she’s convinced the Trump administration just wants to fast-track certain types of projects.

"What they want to do is destroy our public lands - with fracking, with logging, with pipelines,” McNanama said.

Under the new draft rule, the U.S. Forest Service would be able to approve commercial logging and road building on 11-square miles of public lands at a time without public input. The agency said the changes would avoid costly environmental review and make the permitting process more efficient.

The new rule would also broaden so-called categorical exclusions to exempt many projects from public review. According to McNanama, the degradation of forests is a big blow to the fight against climate change.

"We've got to stop mowing down our forests. We've got to stop burning the trees for energy production. To do this is just insanity,” she said. “We are facing the largest existential threat to the human race ever."

The U.S. Forest Service will now review the public comments and issue a final rule in the coming months. If the rule stands as proposed, environmental groups have vowed to sue to stop it. A joint statement from conservation groups opposing the changes can be found at ProtectNEPA.org.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA