Major Rollback of Regulations for National Forests Proposed

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Major Rollback of Regulations for National Forests Proposed
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Source: The Los Padres ForestWatch

Last week, the Trump Administration announced plans to weaken National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations that apply to national forest management across the country. The proposed regulatory changes—the first agency-led changes since the George W. Bush Administration—would allow large commercial logging and other projects in places like the Los Padres National Forest to move forward with limited environmental analysis and public input.

The administration’s proposed rule, published in the Federal Register, would establish several new loopholes that the Forest Service will be able to use to fast-track potentially large and impactful projects. These changes would make it easier for the agency to approve such projects without first preparing an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement and without providing a public comment period, in many cases.

One of the proposed loopholes would allow for projects up to nearly 11.5 square miles in size to be conducted without an environmental study that analyzes alternatives and that provides more than one public comment period. Under this same loophole, the agency would also be able to approve commercial logging on up to 6.5 square miles at a time.

“This is yet another attempt by the Trump Administration to chip away at the bedrock environmental laws that keep public lands, wildlife, and people safe from damaging activities,” said Los Padres ForestWatch Conservation Director Bryant Baker. “New loopholes for commercial logging only serve to benefit timber companies, and they’re a clear indication of what the administration’s intentions are.”

Recently, two commercial logging projects were approved across 4.5 square miles of the Los Padres National Forest under a similar loophole. The Trump Administration’s proposed changes would facilitate more of these types of activities over larger areas without robust environmental review.

Other changes would let the U.S. Forest Service easily legitimize illegal roads and trails without fully assessing their potential impacts, build up to five miles of road at a time under a categorical exclusion,  ignore criteria such as the effect on sensitive species when deciding whether to prepare an environmental assessment, and make it easier for projects to move forward without an environmental study if the agency vaguely claims that there will be long-term beneficial effects.

The agency’s intention to expand the use of categorical exclusions will also eliminate the ability for the public and organizations to formally object to many projects, meaning litigation will be the only way for changes to be sought after activities are approved.

Moreover, the proposed rule would drastically limit the public’s ability to comment on proposed projects in the first place. A process known as “scoping,” allows the public to submit comments on an initial proposal before it undergoes environmental review and helps direct the agency in their development of alternatives based on concerns from local communities. Scoping would no longer be required for most projects—including large commercial logging projects that would fit within the new loophole,

“By going to such great lengths to obstruct public input, the administration shows its hand, and how much power there is in our collective voice,” said Los Padres ForestWatch Public Lands Advocate Rebecca August.

The public has until August 12 to submit comments on the proposed regulatory changes. More information and a simple way to submit public comments online can be found at

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photodude Jun 20, 2019 10:29 AM
Major Rollback of Regulations for National Forests Proposed

Natural forest logging is neither a shame or extremely sad if done responsibly.

Forest preservation is a recent misguided concept in the last 100 +/- years. Hundreds of years ago, forest fires naturally thinned the forests and removed forest floor detritus.

With the current desire to preserve the forests at all costs, a fuel load is created that makes forest fires unmanageable. The recent fires are a prima facie example.

Tree and underbrush thinning is the responsible thing to do, but not clear cutting.

PitMix Jun 20, 2019 12:14 PM
Major Rollback of Regulations for National Forests Proposed

Are you sure that building access roads to be able to extract the timber has no negative effects? That doesn't seem possible to me. When I've seen timber companies working, that area looks devastated. We're going to destroy everything, it seems. And it won't take a very long time, either.

a-1561052563 Jun 20, 2019 10:42 AM
Major Rollback of Regulations for National Forests Proposed

This is such a strange PR from the Forest Watch folks. Surely they understand that modern logging is a highly regulated industry with tremendous oversight? Take a drive to N California, talk to those that currently work the forests, and see how it's done. A state forestry manager (=state employee) will approve of the location and building of all access roads (with soil and creek mitigations, etc.). Then a forestry manager will literally mark every tree that is allowed to be harvested by the timber industry. Then they confirm that the trees harvested were only those selected, and the forest was returned to an agreed state: this often includes planting many more young trees than were removed. This isn't clear cutting. It's careful selection that allows for a healthy forest to remain and be a resource for generations to come.

Sam The Dog Jun 20, 2019 11:37 AM
Major Rollback of Regulations for National Forests Proposed

Easy there @10:42am, @Factotum, and @Photodude, let's not let facts get in the way of our State's (and most of our populations) efforts to fight and reject anything that comes from this administration purely out of their dislike for Trump. It's easier to cast a blanket rejection than to even hint at acknowledging some of what the administration is trying to do has beneficial outcomes.

PitMix Jun 20, 2019 12:11 PM
Major Rollback of Regulations for National Forests Proposed

Cutting down mature integrated ecosystems and replacing them with monoculture timber is not an environmental benefit. It's amazing how much damage Trump has been able to cause in 3 short years. So easy to tear things down, so difficult to repair them.

a-1561064719 Jun 20, 2019 02:05 PM
Major Rollback of Regulations for National Forests Proposed

Pitmix, the timber industry doesn't/can't do monoculture timber re-planting anymore either. Modern forest management is more akin to thinning and diversification. They take some mature and valuable trees (but not all), leaving the less mature trees and diverse flora. They then return and plant a further diverse spectrum of saplings. Wait a decade or so and repeat.

biguglystick Jun 20, 2019 11:05 AM
Major Rollback of Regulations for National Forests Proposed

Is there any level that this horrid administration will not stoop to? It's as if they hate the very Earth they live on. Stripping protections from every natural thing. It's a disgrace. Sickening. All about money, and money for them, not for the poor or for schools or endangered species... I HATE this heinous administration and I'm praying for a giant blue wave in 2020. Every day a new horror with trump and his gang of horribles.

Sam The Dog Jun 20, 2019 03:06 PM
Major Rollback of Regulations for National Forests Proposed

The "giant blue wave" has already come to California yet what exactly has it done for schools or the poor? The Dems have had the run of CA for over a decade yet homeless is at all time highs and the affordable housing issue has gotten worse. Maybe they should have let more "all about the money" types build more housing, even if it's the higher end kind. Higher end renters will move in leaving more of the less-than-higher-end units available to others. And our schools? 37th in the nation according Forbes.

420722 Jun 20, 2019 03:26 PM
Major Rollback of Regulations for National Forests Proposed

Your precious blue has led California for a decade and we now have the one of the worst education systems in the country, highest annual public welfare expenditures in the country (98.5 billion dollars), housing prices are through the roof, the homeless have been failed miserably and now we have a disease issue in Los Angeles and somehow local politicians are still getting paid? It’s sickening. Why do you hate Trump so bad but don’t hold your own accountable? Makes zero sense to me.

Luvaduck Jun 20, 2019 03:54 PM
Major Rollback of Regulations for National Forests Proposed

Why hate trump answer: His record, his loutish behavior, his many disclosed, contradictory lies, his lack of the diverse education necessary to do the job he has and his unwillingness to read, study and learn. I don't 'hate' him, and the attacks upon his personal appearance when he was a candidate was grade-school revisited. I cringe and fear what so many of "his" policies will do to our country long-term for a short-term gain for limited few and the fire-sale of our national assets, many to foreign countries.

Sam The Dog Jun 20, 2019 04:11 PM
Major Rollback of Regulations for National Forests Proposed

I think even you aren't separating "his" behavior from "his"policies. Peoples (rightful) disgust for his behavior blind them to seeing his policies independently, and the Democrats fighting his every move, even the reasonable moves, is what is going to get Trump reelected. I bet this quote just makes you cringe: “We simply cannot allow people to pour into the United States undetected, undocumented, unchecked and circumventing the line of people who are waiting patiently, diligently and lawfully to become immigrants into this country.”

Factotum Jun 20, 2019 01:23 PM
Major Rollback of Regulations for National Forests Proposed

Managed forests have access roads and fire breaks. Unmanaged forest is where fire destroys everything in its path. There was early spotting of the Paradise fire in the very early reports, but forest management could not reach the location because of a badly maintained access road.

Shasta Guy Jun 23, 2019 09:52 AM
Major Rollback of Regulations for National Forests Proposed

Proper forest management shown here. ***** ***** This is from Juan Browne at the Blancolirio YouTube channel. Paste the link into your browser or go to his channel. This video is from the Tahoe national forest taken about a week ago. It shows the dense understory fuel conditions and the improvement from thinning. ALL timber lands desperately need the type of thinning operations shown here. Without it, all trees burn in the forest.

Baseball guy Jun 23, 2019 11:50 AM
Major Rollback of Regulations for National Forests Proposed

Proper forest management, i.e. thinning, by the people who work the forests will prevent the horror we face every time the sundowners threaten to blow down the mountains and destroy our community. Do you remember how close we came to loosing San Roque during the Thomas Fire? Come on people let forest personnel handle this not well intended environmentalists and beaurocrats!!

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