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The Forest Service Doesn’t Want Your Input

Posted: 08/01/2019
by Evan Stafford

When American Whitewater goes to bat for river corridor protections, or to stop a dam or mining project before it starts, our main tool is the combined force of our voices giving public feedback on how these actions will positively or adversely affect the rivers we love and our enjoyment of them. Unfortunately, right now the Forest Service is set to make changes that would take away our right to have a say in how public lands and rivers are managed. We have until August 26 (deadline extension) to comment on these changes to the public process that will potentially remove the public's voice from about 93% of all Forest Service projects. We need you to let them know removing the public's voice from Forest management is unacceptable. We've made it super easy with our simple comment submission form, but please personalize it if you have an extra moment. 

The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) is the key law that gives you as a citizen a voice in public land and river management. The "NEPA process," ensures multiple opportunities for public involvement in public lands decision making and codifies the way agencies are required to inform and consider citizen input. The Forest Service is proposing some big changes to how it implements NEPA and these changes would cut the American people out of the conversation around how they manage 193 million acres of public land. Among other things, their proposed changes would eliminate public participation on the vast majority of Forest Service projects like most timber sales, agency actions that affect river access, or projects that include changes to recreational infrastructure by eliminating the current requirement to conduct scoping for projects being considered under a categorical exclusion, or environmental assessment. 

Scoping is a crucial process that informs the public that a land management agency is considering changes, and is the only opportunity for the public to weigh in on a project that is "categorically excluded" from analysis. It's also important for environmental assessments, because it gives the public an opportunity to weigh in on a project at the very beginning, and alerts people to the fact that the Forest Service is considering a project in the first place. Another damaging change would allow logging and road building to proceed without any environmental review or opportunity for public input. Projects that affect recreational amenities and access to rivers could proceed without being informed by the users who would be impacted.

Public lands and rivers belong to all of the citizens of the United States. Our ability to give input on public lands decisions is paramount to our collective ownership. The NEPA process is critical to American Whitewater's future work and success. Although we recognize the desire for a more efficient process, we believe removing the public's ability to provide input in how our lands are managed is not the solution and we need you to let the Forest Service know if you feel the same way. 

Take action today to protect the public process and ensure this isn't the last Forest Service comment you're able to submit!

Evan Stafford
516 Stover St
Fort Collins, CO 80524
Phone: 970-420-5377