Raise Your Voice for Conservation

In January, the Trump administration announced proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) which will have harmful impacts on public health, Idaho’s water and public lands, and our communities. Washington, D.C. needs to hear your voice in support of protecting the environment and addressing climate change. You have until March 10 to comment on the Trump administration’s proposed changes. 

National Environmental Policy Act 

NEPA gives the public a voice in the management of public lands and resources. The U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and other federal agencies must make a genuine effort to solicit and respond to public input regarding proposed actions and decisions. NEPA also requires federal agencies to disclose the effects of agency actions to human health and the environment.

Take for example, the Bottom Canyon Project on the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. The Forest Service proposed this timber sale project. As a result, conservation groups got together with representatives of the timber industry to talk about potential impacts to wildlife and fish. 

These conservationists and loggers together reached a compromise to protect key wildlife habitat and remove old logging roads that were bleeding sediment into the Little North Fork Coeur d’Alene River. They then submitted joint comments on the Bottom Canyon Project. 

The Forest Service responded by adopting the joint recommendations of conservationists and loggers. Without NEPA, the opportunity for interests to work together and influence Forest Service decision-making would not exist.  

Unfortunately, industry lobbyists have cozied up to the Trump administration to change NEPA and convinced the White House to cut corners and silence the public. If corporate lobbyists get their way, then federal agencies will:

  • Ignore climate change.
  • Limit the timeframe and potential impacts on natural or cultural resources the agencies need to consider by simplifying the meaning of “effects.”
  • Set short, arbitrary deadlines to complete environmental reviews at the cost of public participation and completeness.
  • Let corporations cook the books and conduct their own environmental reviews.
  • Rubber-stamp certain categories of projects without any public involvement at all. 

NEPA ensures public involvement and participation regardless of whether you’re talking about a plan that will guide national forest management for 20-30 years or a recreation plan for your favorite trail system.

Also consider this example from High Country News: “A project’s potential contribution to climate change, in other words, would be discounted [under NEPA changes]. Indeed, environmental effects will no longer be considered significant — except for the most direct, immediate ones. A proposed highway plowing through a low-income neighborhood, for example, would result in more traffic, leading to more pollution, leading to health problems for residents and exacerbating global warming. But since all of that is “remote in time” and the result of a “lengthy causal chain,” it would not necessarily be grounds to stop or modify the project. By discounting long-term and cumulative impacts, this seemingly simple change would effectively gut a law that has guided federal agencies for a half-century.”

Under the new rules, analysis of the cumulative impacts will no longer take place. This is not in the public’s best interest, but the fossil fuel industry loves it! You can learn more about these NEPA changes and how to submit comments here. The comment period ends March 10, 2020.

Wall Street Warns of Risks of NEPA Changes

If impacts to public health and the environment weren’t enough, Wall Street is worried these changes might put major companies at risk. Wall Street investors sent a letter to 58 companies saying that companies seeking to make use of these rule changes put themselves and their investors at “significant risk of public backlash and stranded assets, should these actions be legally challenged or protections be restored by the courts or by future administrations.”