Senate and the Congressional Western Caucuses are praising the United States Forest Service for its effort to revise the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to allow for increased activity on federal lands to better manage forests and help prevent catastrophic wildfires.
This is an especially important decision in the wake of deadly wildfires that have struck the West, officials said. NEPA requires agencies to analyze the environmental impact of proposed actions before making decisions.
“Originally intended as a tool for environmental protection, NEPA has been hijacked by serial litigants and wielded as a means of obstruction,” Western Caucus Chairman Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said in a statement about the proposed new rule. “The current NEPA processes is costly, burdensome and uncertain.”
“There is no good reason that the average time to currently complete this bureaucratic process is 687 days,” Gosar said. “The Forest Service’s proposed action is the first agency rule change to NEPA in more than a decade and is welcome news.”
“I applaud the Forest Service for cutting red tape to protect our communities from catastrophic wildfires, expand recreation, and create jobs,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT). “Modernizing these burdensome regulations to restore active management is a big win for Montana communities.”
“The Trump administration is once again getting government off the backs of Americans by decreasing overreach and regulation,” House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) said of the move. “These NEPA revisions will provide additional tools and flexibility.”
“Fire season is upon us and is a reminder of how much work remains to reduce the threat of fire in our forests,” Greg Walden (R-OR), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said. “I applaud the Forest Service for building on the tools that passed into law last year and taking steps to further reform broken federal forest policy.”
“Refreshing the Forest Service’s approach to developing projects will help protect our communities,” Walden said. “Currently, upwards of 70 percent of forest project costs go into planning.”
“Streamlining that process will extend resources to get more work done in the woods and reduce the threat of wildfire and smoke to our communities,” Walden said. “The Nature Conservancy and U.S. Forest Service found that active forest management can reduce the size and intensity of the wildfires by 70 percent.”
“It is time to follow the science and update policies to speed up forest management, and the Forest Service is taking important steps towards getting that done,” Walden said.
The summary of the rule, posted in the Federal Register and now available for public comment, states:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service (Agency) is proposing revisions to its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. The Agency proposes these revisions to increase efficiency in its environmental analysis while meeting NEPA’s requirements and fully honoring its environmental stewardship responsibilities. The proposed rule would contribute to increasing the pace and scale of work accomplished on the ground and would help the Agency achieve its mission to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. Public input has informed the development of the proposed rule, including through an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The Agency is now requesting public comment on the revisions in the proposed rule. The Agency will carefully consider all public comments in preparing the final rule.
“The new rule will expedite project implementation and allow the Forests Service to better reach their goals of restoring deteriorating forest health conditions and protecting homes along with saving human and animal lives including endangered species from devastating wildfires,” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said.
“This is another example of how the Trump administration is making life easier for Americans by streamlining unnecessary and costly regulations,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), chief regulatory reform officer, said. “These proposed rule changes maintain public transparency and better fulfill the needs of western states.”
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