Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Environmental Reviews

There is so much that goes on in these reviews that many professional foresters feel is very unnecessary and vastly increases the costs of them doing their job (which they have traditionally done in a responsible manner) that it is easy to see why the reviews would be stopped for routine projects, which master planning essentially is, a routine part of running an agency.

Editorial: A clear-cut outrage
Congress must reinstate forest plan rules
Published 12:00 am PST Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The U.S. Forest Service has announced a final rule, which takes effect Jan. 31, eliminating environmental analysis from 15-year master plans for each of the nation's 155 forests.

For the last 24 years, forest master plans have undergone rigorous scientific and environmental review under the National Forest Management Act and the National Environmental Protection Act. But not anymore.

Instead of presenting various alternatives for public comment, as in the past, the Forest Service in the future will be required to present only one option. And no environmental analysis of that option is required. For example, there will be no estimate of changes in fish or elk populations under various scenarios, as was done in the past. In fact, the new rule contains no requirements for monitoring any resource. Nor will the agency analyze cumulative effects of various proposed land uses -- such as logging, grazing, off-road vehicle use and recreational activities -- on forests.

The thinking (if that's the right word) behind this change is the forest service's belief that land management plans "do not individually or cumulatively result in significant effects" on the environment and, thus, continuing the practice of doing environmental analysis for plans is "not needed." With this so-called "categorical exclusion" of environmental analysis, the agency expects forest plan revisions to be speedier -- taking two or three years instead of five years. But speed is not of the essence when dealing with 15-year master plans for the forests.