Front Porch Blog

Obituary for The Commons? It’s Torch & Pitchfork Time.

The patient that is our National Environmental Policy Act has been ill of late, and I am distressed to report that It has now been moved into Intensive Care. This is a call to the family to rush to the bedside. Please speak. It may look like the patient cannot hear or see, but it is possible that your energy will help rally the dying, and enable NEPA to live.

Jump the bump for an overview of NEPA’s life, the struggles, and the attempted murder for profit that put NEPA in it’s present condition…….

The infecting organism is the USDA, and the bug is named Categorical Exclusion.

“In recent years, the Forest Service has created and widely used a number of categorical exclusions that prevent NEPA review for individual timber sales. Excluding the forest plans themselves from NEPA review means that a great many of the agency’s actions will never receive a hard look at all, at any level of forest management, much less involve the public in a meaningful way.


The environmental review has documented that writing management plans has no effect on the environment, which qualifies the individual plans of each National Forest for categorical exclusion from individual study under the National Environmental Policy Act.

They claim that

Further specific environmental study will be focused on each project that carries out the plan.

At this point, one can hardly trust a statement such as that.
Clear Skies, Healthy Forests, and omg, provisions for even more public opinion. Really? If you believe that, I got a bridge……

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to integrate environmental values into their decision making processes by considering the environmental impacts of their proposed actions and reasonable alternatives to those actions. To meet this requirement, federal agencies prepare a detailed statement known as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). EPA reviews and comments on EISs prepared by other federal agencies, maintains a national filing system for all EISs, and assures that its own actions comply with NEPA.

The importance of NEPA, in a nutshell..full disclosure to We The People, about what is being done to our Commons, in our names. Is anybody unclear about why this Administration is out behind the locked FS gate, witnesses trussed and muzzled, killing it softly, without, they hope, any input from the pesky wildlife they call constituents?

The significance of NEPA is paramount in that it calls for the comprehensive disclosure and full accounting of environmental impacts associated with federally funded projects and other actions requiring a federal permit. NEPA establishes a process wherein the public has the right to offer comments prior to final decisions on environmentally significant actions. NEPA mandates consultation with relevant federal, state, and local agencies and provides a comprehensive forum in which to view environmentally significant actions in the light of all current environmental legislation. NEPA calls for the development of multiple alternatives, including the option of “No Action”. In some regards the passage of NEPA constitutes a “bill of rights” allowing for the American citizen to engage in the democratic processes of this country regarding actions that have significant environmental impacts. These impacts relate to the physical environment, public health, social, cultural, and personal values, impacts on biotic communities, and economic repercussions.

This witness testimony before the House Comittee on Resources (in 1998), by Lynton K. Caldwell Professor of Public and Environmental Affairs Indiana University, makes some important points, as timely now as they were then, indeed, more so.

Professor Caldwell says:

Through the judicially enforceable process of impact analysis, NEPA has significantly modified the environmental behavior of Federal agencies, and indirectly of State and local governments and private undertakings. Relative to many other statutory policies NEPA must be accounted an important success. But implementation of the substantive principles of national policy declared in NEPA requires a degree of political will, not yet evident in the Congress or the White House. That the American people clearly supports the purpose of NEPA is evident in repeated polls of public opinion. But implementation of NEPA has not been audibly demanded by a public at-large which has received little help in understanding what must be done to achieve objectives of which they approve.

We know full well how much Bu$hCo and the Robber Barons have hated this significant modification of Federal agencies. Those with fingers on the pulse of our bedrock environmental laws have felt the increasing weakness and irregularity of the beat for 6 years now.

Three decades since 1969 is a very short time for a new aspect of public policy–the environment–to attain the importance and priority accorded such century-old concerns as taxation, defense, education, civil liberties, and the economy. The goals declared in NEPA are as valid today as they were in 1969. Indeed perhaps more so as the Earth and its biosphere are stressed by human demands to a degree that has no precedent. (Note the 1993 World Scientists Warning to Humanity) But “environment” in its full dimensions is not easily comprehended. Human perceptions are culturally and physically limited, but science has been extending environmental horizons from the cosmic to the microcosmic. Even so, the word “environment” does not yet carry to most people the scope, complexity, or dynamic of its true dimensions.

We are just now shy of four decades. Now that the patient is dying, is it possible that the word “environment” is starting to carry to most people the scope, complexity and dynamic of it’s true dimensions? We can only hope, and make a comittment to action.

On the importance of NEPA, and it’s success, from Testimony
Before the Task Force on Improving NEPA.

To fully appreciate the logic and intent of NEPA one must first look at the history of America’s relationship with the abundant natural resources that constitute our environment. As a young nation our first century was marked by phenomenal expansion and an insatiable consumption of natural resources that at the time were thought to be inexhaustible. Our forefathers cleared the land for crops, often burning or otherwise destroying the virgin forests. In ignorance we depleted the soil through unsustainable farming practices, only to move on when the land would no longer produce. When forests were harvested, it was for quick profit without regard for sustainability, regeneration or maintenance of native wildlife habitat. Wildlife was slaughtered, often to the edge of extinction. The common result of this thoughtless exploitation of resources was a “boom and bust” cycle that frequently left in its wake a trail of economic depression and hardship, community deterioration, impairment of natural resources, and environmental degradation.


At its heart, the NEPA process is grounded on certain basic beliefs about the relationship between citizens and their government. Those core beliefs include an assumption that citizens should actively participate in their government, that information matters, that the environmental impact assessment process should be implemented with both common sense and imagination, and that there is much about the world that we do not yet understand. NEPA also rests on a belief that the social and economic welfare of human beings is intimately interconnected with the environment. [Dinah Bear, 43 Nat. Resources J. 931, 932 (2003)

I recieved my notice of NEPA’s impending death via e-mail this morning, from the magnificient

One action that could be taken is to donate $XX.01 to help the environmentally educated and passionate lawyers fight this demise. You can google your state or county+ environmental group, and join up with other concerned citizens in your area to join in the fight.

Wildlaw could use some help, in the form of donation, letters and calls to Congress Critters, or an outraged lte to your local or a national paper.

Wildlaw and others have filed suit against the new planning regulations and it is currently being heard and will be ruled upon soon. Success there will likely lead to a similar strategy against this. Until the courts decide to overturn this, the FS will pretend what they are doing is legal.

Public outcry, letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, letters and phone calls to senators and representatives and local legislators will all support this effort…in fact, litigation is unlikely to succeed without this.
In Virginia, Virginia Forest Watch and Wild Virginia will surely be leading the charge!

I’ll leave what is becoming an over long diary with this, part of the closing statement of Larry D. Shelton, Texas Comittee on Natural Resources from his testimony linked above.

NEPA has not only served as a stellar domestic policy but has earned for America prestige and respect at the global level. As legislation goes, the text of NEPA is not long, but each of its provisions is important and essential to the integrity of the act as a whole.

Cross posted at the Daily Kos.





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