FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Trump’s Plan to Cut the Public Out of Public Lands Decisions

Timber Wolf. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

When I was a kid, one of the favorite games we played in elementary school was “dodge ball.”  In the game, a circle is made around a person who attempts to “dodge” a ball thrown by the other kids. You get to stay in the middle of the ring until a ball hits you, and then you are “out” and another takes your place trying to avoid the ball. I was pretty good at dodging the ball. But eventually the teacher would give those throwing the ball a couple of extra balls to heave. I could not avoid the throws coming at me from all directions and would soon be “out.”

A similar strategy for privatizing and transferring public resources to private interests appears to be in the “playbook” of the Trump administration.  Trump has implemented numerous changes in public lands policy. The basic strategy is to “throw so many balls” at the public that it is impossible to avoid all of them. Our national heritage is threatened.

Early in his administration, Trump reduced several national monuments that had been established by previous administrations, including an 85% reduction in the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. In the lands that were removed from the Monument, the Bureau of Land Management has increased oil and gas leasing.

But even for the small remaining lands in the monument, the BLM, which is responsible for managing the Bears Ears National Monument, has recently proposed massive chaining of juniper to benefit ranchers, leasing lands to the fossil fuel industry most of the monument for oil and gas, elimination of protection for wilderness study areas, among other changes that threaten the very purposes for which a national monument is established.

But it gets worse.

An outspoken advocate for selling off our public lands, William Perry Pendley became the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management  (BLM), which oversees management of 250 million acres of public lands across the country.

Pendley is the former president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, a property-rights group that regularly sues the Department of the Interior on behalf of companies that want to mine and drill on public lands.

Also, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt appointed Karen Budd-Falen for the role of Assistant Secretary for the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Parks. Budd-Falen is one of the family lawyers for the infamous Bundy Family which commandeered the Malheur Wildlife Refuge and still grazes their cattle illegally on BLM lands in Nevada.

Least we do not forget, Berhardt, a former lobbyist for the oil industry, has also directed the BLM to revise its land-use plans to eliminate protective land categories like Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) and Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, while significantly increasing the leasing of public lands to the Oil and Gas industry. The recently released BLM draft management plan for the North Central District Office in Lewistown reflects these changes in emphasis.

All of these actions and many more will harm our public lands and jeopardize our civic heritage.

But one of the many “balls” being thrown at the public is the loss of public involvement in public lands decisions through the use of “categorical exclusion” or CE. Categorical Exclusions were initially designed to eliminate the need for public review of insignificant and straightforward actions by the Forest Service or BLM. For instance, a CE might be used to allow the Forest Service to construct a fence around a campground.

However, the Forest Service under the ruse that environmental analysis is slowing its ability to build “resilience” into our forests by cutting them down has proposed that 93.3% of all Forest Service decisions will lose all the current advance notice and public comment requirements.

Instead of notifying the public of significant environmental actions or preparing Environmental Assessment, the Forest Service will be able to use the CE to avoid analysis of impacts or involve the public in the management of OUR lands.

Under the new regulations, commercial logging of up to 4,200 acres without a review of impacts. Keep in mind an acre is approximately the size of a football field. So the agency could use a CE to argue that removing trees on over 4,000 acres has no significant impact.

The new rules would also allow the Forest Service to construct up to five miles of new roads without any review.

Worse for public lands, it can use CE over and over. The agency could log a 4,200-acre patch of land, then immediately use a CE to log another 4,200 adjacent acres or build another 5 miles of new road without any environmental analysis.

New pipelines, oil drilling, and other actions could also be permitted without any environmental analysis under the new rules.

Even illegal roads and trail created by ORVs and mountain bikes can be “legalized” without public review using CEs.

It is obvious the goal is to cut the public out of public lands decisions and promote the transfer of our public resources to private industry.  Our national patrimony is threatened.

One has until August 12th to comment on the CE expansion proposal. Go to the eFederal Rulemaking Portal. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!

Mail written comments to:

USDA-Forest Service
Attn: Amy Barker, USDA Forest Service, Geospatial Technology and Applications Center,
125 South State Street, Suite 7105,
Salt Lake City, UT 84138

 

More articles by:

George Wuerthner has published 36 books including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy. He serves on the board of the Western Watersheds Project.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
December 06, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Eat an Impeachment
Matthew Hoh
Authorizations for Madness; The Effects and Consequences of Congress’ Endless Permissions for War
Jefferson Morley
Why the Douma Chemical Attack Wasn’t a ‘Managed Massacre’
Andrew Levine
Whatever Happened to the Obama Coalition?
Paul Street
The Dismal Dollar Dems and the Subversion of Democracy
Dave Lindorff
Conviction and Removal Aren’t the Issue; It’s Impeachment of Trump That is Essential
Ron Jacobs
Law Seminar in the Hearing Room: Impeachment Day Six
Linda Pentz Gunter
Why Do We Punish the Peacemakers?
Louis Proyect
Michael Bloomberg and Me
Robert Hunziker
Permafrost Hits a Grim Threshold
Joseph Natoli
What We Must Do
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Global Poison Spring
Robert Fantina
Is Kashmir India’s Palestine?
Charles McKelvey
A Theory of Truth From the South
Walden Bello
How the Battle of Seattle Made the Truth About Globalization True
Evan Jones
BNP Before a French Court
Norman Solomon
Kerry’s Endorsement of Biden Fits: Two Deceptive Supporters of the Iraq War
Torsten Bewernitz – Gabriel Kuhn
Syndicalism for the Twenty-First Century: From Unionism to Class-Struggle Militancy
Matthew Stevenson
Across the Balkans: From Banja Luka to Sarajevo
Thomas Knapp
NATO is a Brain Dead, Obsolete, Rabid Dog. Euthanize It.
Forrest Hylton
Bolivia’s Coup Government: a Far-Right Horror Show
M. G. Piety
A Lesson From the Danes on Immigration
Ellen Isaacs
The Audacity of Hypocrisy
Monika Zgustova
Chernobyl, Lies and Messianism in Russia
Manuel García, Jr.
From Caesar’s Last Breath to Ours
Binoy Kampmark
Going to the ICJ: Myanmar, Genocide and Aung San Suu Kyi’s Gamble
Jill Richardson
Marijuana and the Myth of the “Gateway Drug”
Muzamil Bhat
Srinagar’s Shikaras: Still Waters Run Deep Losses
Gaither Stewart
War and Betrayal: Change and Transformation
Farzana Versey
What Religion is Your Nationalism?
Clark T. Scott
The Focus on Trump Reveals the Democrat Model
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Do Bernie’s Supporters Know What “Not Me, Us” Means? Does Bernie?
Peter Harley
Aldo Leopold, Revisited
Winslow Myers
A Presidential Speech the World Needs to Hear
Christopher Brauchli
The Chosen One
Jim Britell
Misconceptions About Lobbying Representatives and Agencies
Ted Rall
Trump Gets Away with Stuff Because He Does
Mel Gurtov
Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and the Insecurity of China’s Leadership
Nicky Reid
Dennis Kucinich, Tulsi Gabbard and the Slow Death of the Democratic Delusion
Tom H. Hastings
Cross-Generational Power to Change
John Kendall Hawkins
1619: The Mighty Whitey Arrives
Julian Rose
Why I Don’t Have a Mobile Phone
David Yearsley
Parasitic Sounds
Elliot Sperber
Class War is Chemical War
December 05, 2019
Colin Todhunter
Don’t Look, Don’t See: Time for Honest Media Reporting on Impacts of Pesticides
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail