Director of Watershed Programs
9/9/2002 -- Arlington, Virginia -- Trout Unlimited (TU), North America’s largest trout and salmon resource conservation organization, opposes a bill proposal provided by Secretaries Veneman and Norton to the House Resources Committee on September 5, 2002.
The proposal would exempt timber-thinning projects on public lands from the public disclosure, public comment, and environmental analysis requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. It would exempt agency decisions from citizen appeals. The proposal would enable the Forest Service to retain timber receipts from thinning projects, shielding them from congressional oversight as exercised through the appropriation’s process. In addition it would exempt Forest Service decisions from judicial review and oversight.
National Forests contain one-half of the nation’s blue-ribbon trout streams. Trout Unlimited believes that, although corrective action needs to be taken to address the legacy of fire suppression and past timber and grazing management on National Forests, the proposed bill would increase, not diminish, controversy over public lands.
The proposed bill is a classic example of a top-down approach that will allow the Forest Service to do whatever it wants without any input from local residents and others concerned about healthy forests. TU members devote hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours every year to restore watersheds and improve fisheries, many on National Forests and BLM lands. They also devote large amounts of time to other issues related to management of our National Forests. The proposed bill will cut them and the rest of the public out of critical decisions.
The bill’s exemption of certain projects from any form of judicial review under NEPA and other statutes is also unacceptable. Essentially, this exemption sends the message that, in making certain decisions, the Forest Service does not have to play by the rules.
The Forest Service manages public lands in trust for the American people. That trust is compromised or broken when the agency seeks to shield itself from public involvement and review of agency decisions. The Forest Service and BLM ought to be seeking ways to more effectively engage people in land management – not seek legislative methods of cutting them out.
For more information: Steve Moyer, VP for Conservation Programs, 703-284-9406