Trout Unlimited today praised the U.S. Forest Service for establishing a new and improved policy that will enhance the amount and quality of restoration work conducted on Forest Service lands and waters—a change that will support healthier fish and game habitat and make fishing and hunting better on Forest Service lands.
In June 2012, the agency published a proposed rule amending its National Environmental Policy Act regulations to include three new categorical exclusions aimed at “restoring lands negatively impacted by water control structures, natural and human caused events, and roads and trails,” and today moved to finalize its new policy. By developing categorical exclusions, the agency is identifying specific categories of activities that do not, individually or collectively, have a significant effect on the environment.
Absent project-specific circumstances to the contrary, permitting for activities that fall within a categorical exclusion can be expedited—bypassing the requirement to prepare an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement.
TU is a strong supporter of the NEPA, America’s premier “look before you leap” law, which ensures that federal agencies carefully consider the impacts of major actions before they are undertaken. In its rule announced today, the Forest Service strikes a careful balance: supporting improved regulatory efficiency without sacrificing environmental protections that safeguard our public lands and waters. The Forest Service finds this balance by narrowing the exclusions to specific types of restoration activities that are reasonably expected to have minimal adverse environmental effects while retaining opportunity for further review of more impactful projects. These new exclusions will minimize delay for critical restoration work on federal forest lands, resulting in benefits to fish and wildlife resources, and improving opportunity for the many hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy these public lands.
“Lands and waters on our national forests are among the most productive fish and wildlife habitats in the nation, but in many places on our forests, poorly designed culverts block fish migration, storms have eroded stream banks, and old, unmaintained roads bleed sediment into rivers and streams,” said Steve Moyer, TU’s vice president for government affairs.
“TU, states, counties, and other conservation groups have a long and successful history of partnership with the Forest Service, working together to fix broken streams and lands,” Moyer continued. “The new CE policy will promote efficiency and expediency of restoration, allowing scarce dollars to go much further to promote restoration work throughout our National Forests and improve habitat and opportunity for all who use Forest Service lands.”
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook and Twitter, and visit us online at tu.org.