Forest Service to start restricting public comment

Do you use public lands? If you’re a mountain biker, then it’s likely that you do — especially if you live or ride west of the Mississippi. The Forest Service is proposing big changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA has two major functions. For one, it requires informed decision making regarding public lands, including analysis of environmental implications like air and water quality, recreation access, potential pollution and more, of anything done to or on public lands. Secondly, it assures that the public has a voice in those decisions.

These potential changes to NEPA will roll back the public process of all Forest Service decisions, eliminating some public processes altogether. Outdoor Alliance, an organization aimed at helping the public elevate our voices over the things that matter to us regarding public lands and the public’s access to them, brought up Bozeman, Montana as an example of how information access and public input are crucial for the longevity of our lands. “In 2017, the Custer Gallatin National Forest proposed a vegetation management project in Bridger Mountains. This “North Bridger Vegetation Management Project” fell under a Categorical Exclusion that applies to certain vegetation projects under 3,000 acres,” they explain on their website. The Forest Service provided scoping, per NEPA, and the outdoor recreation community was able to see how the changes to land would affect the area they love, as well as provide a platform for the community to voice their concerns. “Because of this public involvement, the project was modified to protect wildlife and minimize impacts to hiking and mountain biking trails, backcountry skiing, and snowmobiling.  Without scoping, nobody would have even known about the project until it was a done deal.”

We interviewed Outdoor Alliance’s Executive Director Adam Cramer last summer, and policies since then have only gotten worse as Forest Service funding has been increasingly cut. Check out that post to learn more about the organization and the importance of having a voice in the conversation about our national treasures and resources, then click here to easily share your opinion on public lands with the Forest Service.