Taking A Closer Look At The Forest Service's New Rule
August 28, 2012 1:36 PM
Op-Ed by **** Coppock
"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have."
I have told you many times over the past few years to work with your local agency personnel on your land-use issues. Well, I am not so sure that is an avenue that will bring results today, due to the fact that the local Districts and Administrative officers are no longer free to make any decisions on their own. You may need to go to your elected representative to get your land-use issues resolved. But all hope is not gone, yet. We now have a chance to improve our access to public lands and change the direction of the government agencies with a change in leadership. I feel this is the only chance we will have as multiple-use recreational and resource concerned individuals to correct the problem of environmental endangered species directed resource management. We need to change our leadership on both the Federal and State level to protect our access to our public lands and our public resources judging from the condition of our forests.
With that said, I have--as has the BlueRibbon Coalition--informed you about the changes the Federal Government, namely the USDA Forest Service, wants to make with a new RULE. These changes have the look of simple improvements at first glance, but be wary of changes to simplify processes such as using Categorical Exclusions. The Forest Service believes it is appropriate to establish soil and water restoration categorical exclusions based on NEPA implementing regulations at 40 CFR § 1500.4(p) and 1500.5(k), which identify a Categorical Exclusion as a means to reduce paperwork and delays in project implementation. The fact is that the Rule is being written and changed in the inner circles of government agencies without input from the public, expecting the public then to turn the tide of wrong to right after the fact. The Fact is: Categorical Exclusions have no safeguards built into the process, and to allow dam removal under a CE ("remove, replace or modify water control structures to restore flows into natural channels and floodplains") without extensive study and safeguards is nuts! The same applies to ("restore non-system roads and trails to more natural conditions in order to stabilize habitat") stabilizing the habitat. I thought we were stabilizing the road? They don't do road reclamation with a shovel; they do it with heavy equipment, under contract. Reclaimed roads and trails become Roadless. Brian Hawthorne from BlueRibbon Coalition noted that, "The fact that the agency doesn't want any public involvement means the agency probably doesn't care about any potential recreational uses."
To this point a Chief US. District Judge, Lynn Winmill, has just determined that leaving roads open under the Payette National Forests Travel Management Plan causes erosion and harms fish. This ruling is against Valley County south of McCall, Idaho on the Payette National Forest. The judge said, "The agency review of policy, which effectively closed many roads, adequately considered the history and environmental impact of road usage in the national forest". The Judge went further in saying that, "many roads in the area were user built". Yes they were; with your tax dollars to remove timber. Resource removal roads are built by the timber companies with credits given them on the timber costs. Hence, less dollars for the timber an additional tax on the taxpayer. The intent of leaving these timber haul roads open was for the public to drive and enjoy their national Forests.
Valley County was joined by recreational groups and private citizens in its opposition to the Federal Forest Travel Management Plan, which they contend was implemented without sufficient public process and socioeconomic study. Judge Winmill, however, went on to say that, "given the Forest Service's undisputed findings that designating a limited number of roads would be unrealistically expansive and harm the environment. The agency was not obligated to consider designation of an even greater number of roads. Leaving many roads open was found by the Forest Service to cause erosion, impair the restoration of water quality in streams and adversely affect many fisheries." Now, you know why your forest roads are in such bad shape. Your federal agencies have a legal plan to restrict motorized recreation without public comment. Do you also know that any reclaimed road allows the area to be considered "Roadless?" It then is eligible for Wilderness classification? It makes me very uncomfortable when an agency wins by not doing its job.
As the man said, "are you ready for a change yet?" Changing the present administration and reducing government is the only way to protect your access to public lands. I suggest if you are not in agreement, go trade in your snowmobile, motorcycle, and ATV on a Harley and hit the highway.
"National Forest are for the use of all the people."
-Gifford Pinchot, 1907
*From BRC Op-Ed page*
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