By Judy Rodd, Friends of Blackwater
A lawsuit filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) on January 8th seeks to reverse the Trump administration’s elimination of critical safeguards that have protected national forests from unneeded, ill-conceived and destructive logging, road building, and utility right-of-way projects.
The U.S. Forest Service – under orders from President Trump to sell more publicly owned timber – recently finalized a rule that would eliminate transparency, public input, and science-based review from many of the agency’s most environmentally consequential decisions. The changes are part of an onslaught launched by the Trump administration against the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. The Forest Service is the first agency to exploit the newly weakened NEPA protections.
The Forest Service’s rule would severely restrict opportunities for the kind of public review that communities have depended on for decades to speak up for places they care about. Public involvement has protected thousands of acres of old-growth forests, backcountry areas, rare habitats and clean waters. Many local economies depend on the recreational opportunities that draw visitors to public lands.
Under the new rule, public oversight would be lost for nearly every logging project in the Appalachian forests including the Monongahela National Forest of West Virginia. Friends of Blackwater agrees with SELC and hopes their lawsuit will reinstate NEPA in its original form so that the public can continue to have a say in Forest Service decisions.