June 16, 2020
The Trump administration on Friday released a blueprint for the Forest Service.
The directive came in the form of an unusual memo to Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. It orders the Forest Service to expedite environmental reviews on its land, paving the way for more grazing, logging and oil development on public lands, The Hill reported.
“Under this administration, the Forest Service has sold more timber than we have in the last 22 years and made significant increases in our hazardous fuels treatments and active management of our national forests,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “Today, I am announcing a blueprint for reforms to provide further relief from burdensome regulations, improve customer service, and boost the productivity of our national forest system.”
The Secretary’s direction will encompass four areas of the agency’s work:
The Forest Service will focus on productive use of national forests and grasslands, and identify new opportunities to deliver goods and services the American people efficiently and effectively.
The Forest Service will recognize grazing on national grasslands as essential for their management and streamline range improvements and the permit renewal process to reduce burdens and improve customer service for America’s grazers.
The Forest Service will modernize and simplify the permitting process to increase public access to national forests and grasslands.
The Forest Service will streamline their environmental review process through greater accountability for efficient decision making, succinct and understandable documentation, and focus and effective public engagement.
“The secretary’s direction will help ensure we are providing healthy resilient forests and grasslands that continue to deliver on the goods and services the American people want and need, while also supporting communities, public access and fire-adapted landscapes," Forest Service Chief Christiansen said.
Environmental groups accused Perdue of attempting to fast-track development of national forests that have been managed for conservation, Bloomberg reported.
The administration's blueprint is the latest flashpoint over regulatory rollbacks during the coronavirus pandemic, The Washington Post reports. Republicans praised the announcement, while conservationists are concerned Trump officials are taking advantage of the pandemic to develop more of the 193 million acres managed by the U.S. Forest Service.
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