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Expanded logging easier under proposed US Forest Service plan

USDA Forest Service
The Los Padres National Forest along the Big Sur coast.

The US Forest Service is taking additional public comment this month on a controversial plan that will relax permitting for new logging and forest management projects.

August 12 was the original cut-off date for public comment, but that deadline has now been extended.

The proposed new rule would stretch across 80 million acres and all 20 national forests here in California, including the Central Coast's Los Padres National Forest. It would dramatically increase the size of logging in forest thinning projects that bypass environmental review and public comment, making it easier to harvest timber and bulldoze forest roads in places like Mendocino, Tahoe, Los Padres and Lassen national forests.

UC Irvine law professor Alejandro Camacho said the changes would take a bite out of the National Environmental Policy Act—or NEPA—a policy signed by President Nixon mandating that federal agencies study how their plans will harm natural ecosystems.

“The Forest Service proposed changes to their NEPA regulations are one piece of a broader seeming campaign by the Trump administration to erode the protections that NEPA provide,” Camacho said.

Randi Spivak is the public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, and said the change would take the ‘public’ out of public lands.

“Under this rule, if it passes, we may not know about a large-scale logging project until you’re at your favorite campsite and the area around you has been logged,” said Spivak.

The Forest Service has said that the new rule would allow them to act more quickly to groom forests that pose wildfire dangers.

The agency is accepting comments on the proposal until August 26.

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