Senator John Thune [R-SD] has introduced a dangerous attack on our National Forests with the legislation The Forest Management Improvement Act (S. 1731) If passed the bill would allow unprecedented unregulated logging without environmental review, reduce public input in the forest management process, and remove judicial review from a wide range of Forest activities.
Remove Environmental Review for Logging on National Forest Lands
This bill would massively expand the size and number of logging projects that are “categorically excluded” (CE) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), increasing the number of large scale logging projects that do not require an environmental analysis or significant public input. This bill would expand logging projects like clear cutting and thinning from a 70-acre limit to up to 10,000 acres – a colossal and unnecessary increase. Massively increasing the size of logging projects exempt from environmental analysis and the types of projects that can be categorically excluded prohibits both the agency and the public from making informed decisions about project impacts.
Limit Public Input and Alternatives
For any Forest Service management project or activity that is not categorically excluded from NEPA, the bill would eliminate NEPA’s requirement to consider a reasonable range of alternatives. For major federal actions requiring an environmental impact statement the bill would only require the Forest Service to analyze the agency’s proposal and the alternative of no action. For projects requiring an environmental assessment the Forest Service would only analyze the effects of its own proposal. The Forest Service would no longer be obligated to consider management alternatives presented by concerned members of the public, other agencies, tribes, and/ or local governments.
S.1731 runs roughshod over judicial review in several ways. It would entirely replace judicial review of a wide range of Forest Service projects with a “pilot arbitration program,” even if the project clearly violated the law. The program could apply to any type of vegetation management, forest thinning, hazardous fuels reduction, or “any other project, as determined by the Secretary.”
This bill is a blatant attack on our public lands, removing environmental review from large scale logging projects and drastically reducing public input in what is a quintessential public process. We urge you to protect our national forests and your voice in their future. Write your elected officials and tell them to OPPOSE S.1731!