Trump Admin Makes Major Environmental Rollbacks At Forest Service
According to The Hill, US Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue ordered the US Forest Service to “expedite environmental reviews on its land, paving the way for more grazing, logging and oil development on public lands.”
- Perdue announced this directive on a trip to Missoula, Montana. In an unusual memo to Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen, Perdue called it “a blueprint for reforms to further provide relief from burdensome regulations, improve customer service, and boost the productivity of our National Forests and Grasslands.”
- The Hill reported that the move could be good news for Montana’s ranchers, miners, and oil and gas workers who have “long argued for increased access to public lands.”
- However, environmentalists say that the memo “affirms a number of dangerous strategies already underway by the Trump administration.”
“This is a roadmap to national forest destruction, and it’s painful to read,” said Randi Spivak, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s public lands program. “In the midst of the climate and extinction crises, Perdue offers a dystopian vision of expanding mining, fracking, logging and grazing in national forests. This will increase air and water pollution, kill wildlife and increase carbon pollution. It’s the extractive industry’s agenda on steroids.”
- According to The Hill, the memo “lacks the formal letterhead or signature typical with such documents,” and does not lay out any specific policy directives.
The Hill wrote that Perdue’s trip to Montana and the timing of the memo could have significant consequences on the state’s elections.
- Perdue’s trip coincided with a Senate effort to pass a major conservation bill, led partly by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT).
- Daines, who is going against former Gov. Steve Bullock (D) in his reelection bid, is “considered one of the Senate’s more vulnerable Republicans and has relied heavily on land issues in his campaign,” the report continued.
- On Twitter, Daines expressed his gratitude to Perdue for visiting Montana to “highlight new efforts to increase productivity and access of” forests.
The memo’s recommendations align with the administration’s efforts and also some regulations that are already underway at the Forest Service.
- The Forest Service is in the “process of rolling back its role under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) which requires robust environmental reviews of any major action taken by the government on public lands,” The Hill wrote. “The White House is pursuing a similar rollback of the law through its Council on Environmental Quality.”
- The report added that on Friday, Perdue said the agency should “set time and page limits” on its environmental reviews.
“This is definitely a prelude to the stuff that’s going to come out shortly,” Spivak said, noting that the timing of the memo has political ramifications. “Why are they doing this now? They’re waving the flag so to speak….I think it is electioneering.”