The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to expand its list of projects that don’t require environmental review. The agency says the change is needed to make forest restoration among other things more efficient, but critics say it eliminates public involvement. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.
The new list includes logging associated with forest restoration on up to forty two hundred acres, constructing new roads, and issuing special use permits.
If the rule is finalized, these projects would no longer require environmental analysis, advance notice, or public comment under the National Environmental Policy Act.
Jennifer Ruyle is a spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service. She says, "It saves time and resources—bottom line, money—that could be spent on the activities that we do need to do." Ruyle says past reviews show the selected projects have no significant environmental effects.
But Mary O’Brien of the nonprofit conservation organization Grand Canyon Trust argues public involvement is necessary. "You could wake up one day and find that your hiking trail is now five miles of Forest Service road that’ll be cars driving it," she says. "That’s one of the examples the Forest Service gives that would not require any public notice or comment."
Monday is the last day for the public to comment on the proposed rule.