Proposed NEPA Regs: II More Things We Might Agree On and More Ideas For Comment Letters

Many of you know I worked on developing category 12 when I worked in NEPA in DC. So let me say that the background papers that describe the rationale for the new categories,were really well done, and I think the people who wrote them did a terrific job. much better than we did 15 years or so ago.

(2) Category 17. However, an associate noted that the same degree of background was not given for Category 17 (Approval of a Surface Use Plan of Operations). The way the “adjacency” is written also seems to open the category up for possible CE abuse. Finally, my colleague pointed out that BLM does not have this category. I’d recommend dropping this category.

(3) Better SOPAs and contact capabilities. We discussed this before, but stakeholders and the Forest Service, in this day and age, ought to be able to design something an app (Zillow like?) so that Forest Service folks wouldn’t have to try to guess what the best outreach methods are when some people don’t read newspapers, some don’t have internet, and so on.

(4) Public accountability, transparency and access to information about NEPA efficiency. To get better public support, we all need to work off an open source of information (not FOIAs). I’d recommend that the FS implements a tracking mechanism that summarizes projects, including initiation,types of NEPA documents used, Forest/Region, objections, litigation, and ultimately when the project is completed with links to monitoring. This is not a glamorous or partisan idea (it’s definitely more work than giving the public access to PALs) but maybe if many commenters suggested it?

(5) Determinations of NEPA adequacy. You may like them or not (BLM uses them) but the second sentence “new project and activity decisions made in reliance on a DNA shall be subject to all applicable notice, comment, and administrative review processes.” It isn’t clear to me whether “applicable” refers to the original decision. If it is an EIS, you would have to do all the notice, comment and appeal required for an EIS. I’m not sure where that all leads. I prefer what the BLM says in their Handbook, that if the new project was not discussed in the previous proposed action, more public involvement is necessary at the discretion of the decision-maker.

(6) Mileage limits for including roads. I liked the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s “RMEF asks USFS to consider inclusion of appropriate mileage maximums (limits) for conversion of unauthorized trails (e)(23) and unauthorized roads (e)(25), as is proposed in CE(e)(24).” (from their comments).

(7) New outfitter guide permits should have case file and decision memo? There are “categories of actions for which a project or case file and decision memo are not required (but may be prepared).” Most of there are purely administrative or clerical changes with no new or different environmental effects. However (12) says “issuance of a new authorization or amendment of an existing authorization” for activities”on existing roads and trails.. or in areas where activities are consistent with the applicable land management plan.” Examples include outfitting and guiding permits for mountain biking, and back country skiing. It seems to me that new uses like these should instead fall under (e) categories of actions for which a project or case file and decision memo are required.

(8) Clarify “non-commercial timber harvest”. OK, I get that it is in “old” category 14, but still, commercialness is not an environmental factor. If the issue is dragging the tree-parts offsite, then say “tree cutting with or without removal from the site.” Coming from an area where many trees are not commercial, calling tree removal a “harvest” when they may be removed and burned in piles, seems like it doesn’t accurately portray what’s going on.

Others are welcome to add ideas of their own, or from other comments or additions or critiques of the above. Please don’t include the whole comment letters, just ideas that you think are helpful.

1 thought on “Proposed NEPA Regs: II More Things We Might Agree On and More Ideas For Comment Letters”

  1. I saw a collection of Official Comments (and responses) on a logging project (maybe in Colorado) where it seemed like half of them mentioned Monsanto as a ‘reason’ for not implementing the project. Every one of those were followed with an Official response indicating that Monsanto had nothing to do with the project.

    I do support the ability of the Forest Service to jettison comments that have no site-specific applicability to that particular project. I would also defer the judgement of applicability to Forest Service officials.


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