The US Forest Service is revising NEPA regulations and has proposed eliminating the requirement of public input for many land management decisions. Now is the time to speak up to preserve scoping and public commenting - the somewhat ironic comment period closed on 26 August.
(Note: This comment period has closed)
8 August 2019
Public lands need public input. Seems simple enough, right? Maybe not. Right now, the Forest Service is trying to eliminate public input from many of the decisions affecting public lands.
The Forest Service manages all the National Forests, where extensive bikepacking takes place in most every region of the United States (to learn more about the history of Forest Service lands, check out our public lands history article). Whenever the Forest Service makes a decision that significantly affects these lands or our access to them, the agency is required to seek input from us, the public. The law that guarantees our opportunity to tell the Forest Service what we think is called the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA.
The Forest Service is currently revising the regulations it uses to implement NEPA. As part of this revision, the agency wants to get rid of the Scoping phase of public input for projects that require an Environmental Assessment or that fall into a Categorical Exclusion. Basically, this means the agency wants to eliminate the initial phase of public input from certain types of projects, types of projects that are already streamlined compared to larger and more drawn out decisions that require a full environmental impact study.
That may not sound like much, but Scoping is particularly important. Scoping is often when we learn about projects. Scoping also gives us the chance to tell the Forest Service what we know and what we want at the very beginning of the process.
Somewhat ironically, the Forest Service is looking for public input on its proposal to eliminate public input. This is our chance to tell the agency why public input matters and why getting rid of it is a bad idea. Bikepacking Roots encourages you to learn more and submit a comment at https://www.fs.fed.us/emc/nepa/revisions/index.shtml
Comments are due August 26, 2019. The Forest Service really notices unique comments, so make your comments your own. Here are a couple of points you can use:
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