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Breaking Everything They Can

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The next two months are going to be a shitshow of Trump and his cronies breaking everything they possibly can. That includes in the forest.

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) on Wednesday finalized its decision to weaken environmental analysis of many of its plans, excluding a number of actions from scientific review or community input.

The new rule allows the service to use a number of exemptions to sidestep requirements of the bedrock National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), something critics say will speed approval of logging, roads, and pipelines on Forest Service land.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the changes “will ensure we do the appropriate level of environmental analysis to fit the work, locations and conditions,” arguing the streamlining could better help the Forest Service aid areas hurt by wildfires, and quickly repair roads, trails and campgrounds.

But environmentalists say the service is sidestepping analysis it needs to make informed decisions about how to respond to fire damage or ensure runoff from roads won’t hurt its forests.

“Those are really laudable goals, but the problem is it matters where you do things. Forest Service has no idea what areas need treatment or what kind of treatment they need until you do a scientific analysis,” said Sam Evans, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC). “So cutting the scientific analysis and the public input of that decision is really wrong-headed.”

Evans sees the rule as part of a broader campaign by the Trump administration to weaken environmental rules in general and NEPA in particular.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality also finalized a rule this summer gutting NEPA and setting the stage for additional rollbacks at various agencies.

But hey, when this is your policy goal….

…what’s not to love.

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