The U.S. Forest Service has proposed a major overhaul in how it conducts environmental studies of mining, logging and infrastructure projects following an Interior Department proposal to slash environmental assessments last year, according to Reuters.
The new proposal will modify the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires long and exacting analyses before approving projects that could potentially impact the environment.
If approved, the Forest Service's proposed plan would exclude a vast category of infrastructure projects from lengthy environmental impact assessments, a move which the agency said will save time and resources.
"With millions of acres in need of treatment, years of costly analysis and delays are not an acceptable solution — especially when data and experience show us we can get this work done with strong environmental protection standards as well as protect communities, livelihoods, and resources,” said Sunny Perdue, U.S.Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary.
A streamlined environmental review process would also help the agency combat wildfires more effectively, according to USDA press release.
Environmental groups say the changes open thousands of acres to mining, as well as would curtail public input process mandated by the NEPA.
“This is in line with the Trump administration’s approach to cutting the public out of the process to protect public land,” said Randi Spivak of the Center for Biological Diversity.