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E-M:/ Email your comments: the Forest Service is Re-Writing the Rules to Protect the Guilty



Sorry for cross postings, Please forward.

Re-Writing the Rules to Protect the Guilty
Your comments needed on the Forest Service's proposed regulation changes in implementing the National Forest Management Act (NFMA)

Use the talking points to write a letter, or cut and paste the sample letter at the bottom.

Deadline: February 10, 2000
Send comments to: Planning Regulations, PO Box 7669, Missoula, MT, 59807
(406) 329-3021 (fax)
email: planreg/wo_caet@fs.fed.us
The proposed regulations can be seen at: http://www.fs.fed.us/forum/nepa/rule

When a complex piece of legislation such as NFMA is passed by Congress, the law often instructs an agency such as the Forest Service (FS) to maintain current regulations which translate the intent of the law into specific on-the-ground actions. To insure that these "regs" adequately interpret the law, the agency is required to follow a well-defined process of issuing a proposal with several alternatives, taking public comment, and justifying the final decision.

The Forest Service is in the process of removing regulations and replacing them with broad guidelines, thereby increasing the amount of discretion local supervisors have. The last time this occured on a large scale was the Salvage Rider and it resulted in the destruction of thousands of acres of healthy forest under the guise of Salvage. We need more protection, not relaxed regulation!

The Forest Service has recently proposed a substantial rewrite of their lengthy NFMA regs. Here are some talking points suggested by Heartwood (a sample letter derived from these points follows):

o Neither alternatives nor an environmental impact statement have been proposed for these regulation changes; insist an E.I.S. be done on these regulations!

o The proposed regulations decrease protection for the environment by changing many current requirements into nonbinding suggestions. We feel there should be clear, easily enforceable limits on agency actions. Ask for specific rules which guarantee streams free from siltation, soil conservation, in-the-field surveys of wildlife to determine the impacts of management, maintenance of key species populations, and specific guidelines on even-aged logging.

o The proposed regulations rely heavily on the findings of "assessments". Insist that these include in-the-field data collection and full public involvement with the legally required process of public comments and environmental analysis with opportunity for appeal of the final conclusion.

o Forest Service decision-makers, under the new regulations, would be given complete freedom to choose which public concerns to consider. Ask that all reasonable concerns be fully analyzed.

o Ask that the public be given more than the proposed 30 days to read & comment on an entire ten-year National Forest Management Plan. Furthermore, the agency's decision-making record should be open to the public and an opportunity should be given for the public to appeal the final decision. The proposed regulations simply define the Plan as never being "final", even while being carried out!

o Professional review of comments from all citizens on National Forest Management Plans should not be diminished in favor of local meetings and input from people with ties to the logging, mining and gas drilling industries as proposed in the new regulations.

o The definition of "ecological sustainability" should include natural disturbance patterns, and not be narrowly referred to as the "maintenance or restoration" of ecosystems. While natural systems evolve and change in cycles over time, logging is needed to maintain one type of forest or "restore" the forest to a previous type. The proposed definition therefore ensures logging.

o An environmental impact statement should be conducted when a ten-year management plan is revised.

Here is a sample letter you can cut and paste, or use as a model:

US Forest Service

Planning Regulations

PO Box 7669

Missoula, MT 59807

February

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing to comment on the draft NFMA planning regulations. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to express my views, and for extending the comment period.

Here are a few thoughts that came to mind while reading through the draft:


I believe that there needs to be an environmental impact statement developed for the propose regulations. I also feel that the EIS should consider many alternatives. There has only been one put forth to date. Both of these recommendations are required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).


The proposed regulations decrease protection for the environment by changing many current requirements into non-binding suggestions. There should be clear, easily enforceable limits on agency actions. I think there should be specific rules which guarantee streams free from siltation, soil conservation, in-the-field surveys of wildlife to determine the impacts of management, maintenance of key species populations, and specific guidelines on even-aged logging. In fact, the guideline I would like to see enacted concerning even aged logging is a ban on the practice.

The proposed regulations rely heavily on the findings of "assessments." These assessments must include in-the-field data collection and full public involvement with the legally required process of public comments and environmental analysis with opportunity for appeal of the final conclusion. Do not get rid of the administrative appeal process, as this will decrease citizen ability to participate in the management process.

Forest Service decision-makers, under the new regulations, would be given complete freedom to choose which public concerns to consider. All concerns must be fully analyzed. This is of special importance as the Forest Service field offices have routinely ignored citizen requests for no logging alternatives to projects.

The public must be given more than the proposed 30 days to read & comment on an entire ten-year National Forest Management Plan. Furthermore, the agency's decision-making record should be open to the public and an opportunity should be given for the public to appeal the final decision. The proposed regulations simply define the Plan as never being "final", even while being carried out! This sets up a situation in which the Forest Service can always change the rules and makes the decision-making processes much less transparent.

Professional review of comments from all citizens on National Forest Management Plans should not be diminished in favor of local meetings and input from people with ties to the logging, mining and gas drilling industries as proposed in the new regulations. This has proven to be a disaster in California and everywhere else the Forest Service has attempted it. Please make sure that all comments are equal, and no one constituency is favored.

The definition of "ecological sustainability" should include natural disturbance patterns, and not be narrowly referred to as the "maintenance or restoration" of ecosystems. While natural systems evolve and change in cycles over time, logging is needed to maintain one type of forest or "restore" the forest to a previous type. The proposed definition therefore ensures logging. Restoration must not become the new name for "get the cut out."

Finally, an environmental impact statement should be conducted when a ten-year management plan is revised. It is irresponsible to not analyze the effects of a plan on the environment. Furthermore it is a violation of NEPA.

Please keep me informed about any decisions the Forest Service makes on this issue.

Sincerely,

Name and Address