For three years I’ve been wondering whether anyone in USDA pays attention to what the Forest Service does or says. Left to its own devices, the Forest Service is capable of much mischief. Here’s today’s example, from the “National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy“:
Wildland fire management actions are guided by a suite of laws, implemented through regulations and adopted as agency policy after public review and comment. Regulations and
policies, however, are often more limiting than the authorizing legislation itself, and sometimes may impede the accomplishment of management objectives and timelines. While legislation
such as the Healthy Forest Restoration Act (HFRA) has been beneficial to active management of public lands, other legislation has been used to promote agendas and philosophies that are not necessarily in harmony with the legislation’s original intent. This is especially true of the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), which was meant to provide a means for underprivileged people to bring legal action against the federal government. Similarly, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) are sometimes utilized by special interest groups to achieve objectives not considered by Congress when the bills were enacted. In addition to barriers presented by existing regulations and policies, the articulation of new or revised policies and changes in agency terminology and/or goals create challenges related to communication and implementation. It is important to seek out opportunities to streamline and coordinate procedures and to pursue broader use of authorities across jurisdictions to achieve common goals. Legislative barriers that are impeding project implementation must be examined and reformed to create incentives for resolving conflict through collaboration rather than litigation.
So, there we have it. The Forest Service now supports legislatively amending the Equal Access to Justice Act, the Endangered Species, and the National Environmental Policy Act.
Is the Forest Service speaking for the Obama Administration? Does USDA know or care that its flagship agency has called upon Congress to amend three bedrock laws?