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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 birth, life, 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. Definition of CE as it relates to many facets of it's use can be found here.

"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.

Once again, under the guise of "streamlining", and with the title FINALIZED FOREST SERVICE RULE IMPROVES THE FOREST PLANNING PROCESS AND INCREASES PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT

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.

snip..

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 Heartwood.org.

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.

Crossposted at Appalachian Voices Front Porch Blog.

Originally posted to emmasnacker on Wed Dec 13, 2006 at 09:22 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm ready (7+ / 0-)

    Someone once asked me if I had learned anything from going to war so many times. My reply: Yes, I learned how to cry.
    Joe Galloway

    by BOHICA on Wed Dec 13, 2006 at 09:40:25 AM PST

  •  Neocons hate the EPA they want to shut it down (9+ / 0-)

    it stops them from doing the stuff they want, like polllute   I am going to be a cheap diary pimp and add a link to my early AM diary that flew off the front page to fast  thanks for bringing this topic up, not enough people care about the environment http://www.dailykos.com/...

    "A journey of a thousand miles begins with but one step"

    by testvet6778 on Wed Dec 13, 2006 at 09:45:17 AM PST

  •  great diary (10+ / 0-)

    rec'd and all that.

    With the environment in trouble more and more, we need MORE oversight, not less. I wonder if they fear oversight for this reason. They realize that the environment is in trouble and in order to repair the damage, we have to put in place more stringent measures, which would mean less profits. Thus kill oversight now to get higher profits as long as they can, come what may in the future.

    Could they actually be thinking that, or do they think that off in the future the Magic Flying Unicorn will come in with some wonderful fix to the environment, so they don't have to think about it? Or do they really believe the environment is fine (just like the economy and progress in Iraq)?

    humani nil a me alienum puto (I consider nothing human foreign to me) --Terence

    by astraea on Wed Dec 13, 2006 at 09:47:25 AM PST

  •  NEPA Is Quaint - Like the Geneva Conventions (6+ / 0-)

    Both are treated the same by this admin.

    "It's the planet, stupid."

    by FishOutofWater on Wed Dec 13, 2006 at 10:04:58 AM PST

  •  Loads of great links (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    emmasnacker, lcrp, mommyof3, epppie

    [wiping a tear away] They just don't diary like they used to.

    Thanks for the awesome diary.  I have a gajillion tabs open and am blown away by what I'm reading.  It's amazing to me that you can write a diary with more detail and info than a overly long article in a dead-tree paper will give.  I don't have any extra cash right now, but I do have the power to type, so I'll do that.

    Black by popular demand!

    by fabooj on Wed Dec 13, 2006 at 10:39:11 AM PST

    •  Thank you fabooj, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rgdurst

      (wiping away my own tear), it's a 2.5 hour effort, and I've just updated with some more info on catagorical exclusion for clarity about what the hell is happening. The tear is for my aching neck, my undone chores, my grumbling stomach, but mostly for your use of the word awesome about my effort. You are a great constructive critic on the board, and that is much appreciated praise.

  •  asdf (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    emmasnacker, gatorcog, DWG

    in the hopes of not being too ostracized here...

    national forests and forest planning are super hot topics, and understandably so.  the citizens of this country got pretty upset by the fact that the USFS seemed to be behind the times in the 80s/early 90s regarding environmental values of the country.  because the FS continued to manage a certain way that was not in line with how the public wanted it, the FS lost a lot of credibility and trust with the public, and is still working on getting some of that back.

    i think it's worth it to reiterate that:

    1. the forest service is in the executive branch, and as such, yes, does the bidding of the president inasmuch as those demands don't contradict established law
    1. the forest service budget is determined by the legislative branch, and is therefore also accountable to congress with regards to what it can actually do-- but all the while mandated to parrot the standing executive's line
    1. categorical exclusions ARE NEPA.  they are a process for public participation in the planning process, and as such, are considered NEPA.  CEs have been in the news quite a bit in the past year due to lots of thinning and cuts going on-- 250 acres and less, in some circumstances.  THIS YEAR, a judge struck down liberal use of CEs by the forest service, demanding that the FS go through more traditional public involvement with almost all CEs (that this group would be concerned with).  Therefore, although CEs have a bad name, they've been neutered to a great degree.
    1. the new planning rule does NOT make it possible for the forests to go and do a project on the ground without input.  the original planning rule required a round of intensive NEPA both for the forest plan-- the document that identified zones and prescriptions for management in those zones-- IN ADDITION TO the projects.  what this new rule does is take out the nepa regarding the zoning, but still require it for project work.  essentially, the new rule forces forests to be more general in their zoning planning, and allows forests to create a non-decision document for the plan.  

    i make these points not to support or denounce views expressed here-- personally, my jury's out on the new rule.  but i do request that we take a bit of a breath and think about the hard facts.  NEPA is not going anywhere.  all this rule does is take one layer of NEPA out of the FS planning process.

    one positive: spending less money on planning and litigation (which is where most money goes) and spending more on trails, cabins, toilets, culverts, invasive species efforts, etc... this is not all bad.    

    if trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? we might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason. jack handy.

    by akgrrl on Wed Dec 13, 2006 at 05:30:35 PM PST

    •  Yes, Earth Island, (4+ / 0-)

      a partial victory. or is that the one you refer to?
      It was in O5.

      One lol, Questions:

      How, if there is no EIS done for a "plan", does one figure out how to map use? How does one know what Endangered Species exist, if any, within whatever zone they are tagging with a name, and a catagory of use? I simply do not understand how categorizing land for use can be done without knowing what is there. Springs dry up, intermittent creeks become year round water breaks. Things change over time. They're talking about more frequent plans, 3-5 years instead of 10. Think the cost will go down with the increased frequency considered?

      Seems to me to be like invading a country witorhout knowing how to speak the language, being aware of religious beliefs of the population, or knowing how many troops you'll need to do it.

      The amount of money spent on litigation is a well known strawman.

      And do you really think any savings will be put back into the land? lol. Maybe, with the new guys at the helm there's a chance.

      •  yep, earth island is the one (0+ / 0-)

        although the clarification for the ruling didn't come down until this year, iirc.

        i think the process for determining how this rule will play out is coming-- a few forests have begun planning using the new rule.  so i suppose we'll see how it turns out.  no crystal ball here, but i don't think the plans themselves will throw out all known information about an area and start from scratch.  as far as i know, forest service employees are not out to destroy the environment-- not a good job security move.  how this rule materializes in a plan is dependent on those employees and on the public who choose to be involved, and the results will piss some people off.

        as for your laughing comment about litigation being a strawman, i would love to see a citation.  truly.  i'm intrigued.

        if trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? we might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason. jack handy.

        by akgrrl on Wed Dec 13, 2006 at 11:30:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'll see if I can dig that up. (0+ / 0-)

          Later. Off to work.
          perhaps someone else will stumble into this old dead diary and help out.
          About 'throwing out' info....problem is, there's a lot of territory that the employees don't know. Even here in the small east, I often speak with FS employees who have no idea what is outside 20 feet off of the trail. And these are folks who really should know. So what is troubling to me are the unknown unknowns. They can get really screwed up by timbering.  On the whole, I too really respect most of the FS folks, at least those I know at the local level.

  •  Poor NEPA! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    emmasnacker, DWG, epppie

    Born with such promise.  But just a few years later, in the late '70's, when others and I were suing the feds and the oil shale companies for not complying with NEPA, the judge said, 'it doesn't matter that the arsenic released uncontrollably, underground, in the retort water a mile from the Colorado River is 1,000 times higher than the drinking water standard. Seal the evidence and let no one speak of it again.  Plus, the court can't second guess agency (BLM) discretion. The approval to lease more of the public's land is a done deal. Shell, Oxy, and Gulf Oil, do as you will.'

    But that being said, the Forest Service continued - and continues - to be more assholish than the BLM ever was.  

    "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." - Carl Schurz (1829-1906)

    by iheartfreedom on Wed Dec 13, 2006 at 08:12:32 PM PST

  •  The Republicans (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    emmasnacker

    are deathly afraid of public accountability.  No public commentary on government policy.  No freedom of information.  No public demonstrations against policy (except in small, tightly controlled, easily photographed areas).  No public speech on the internets (if worthless McCain and Schumer have their way).  I love the smell of democracy burning in the morning.

    A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. - Aristotle

    by DWG on Thu Dec 14, 2006 at 12:44:09 AM PST

  •  Bureaucratic maneuvers to stanch public input are (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    emmasnacker

    an effective tactic used by recent Republican administrations (Nixon, Reagan, Bush I and Bush II).

    Whatever the GOP's operatives in Congress can't slip through in late night votes (toward the end of news cycles), whatever the president's men cannot obstruct, dismantle, hamper, or prevent in broad daylight, the Bush appointees take care of by administrative fiat.
    Rules changes can fill "roadless" national forests with roads, remove protections for wetlands, permit obscenely high concentrations of airborne pollutants...you get the picture.

    Problem is, the public can't influence much that goes on in the murky world of bureaucratic implementation of these rules on its own. The time, energy and resources needed to accomplish this stagger even the larger public interest US NGO's at times. We will likely find ourselves relying on the investigative equivalents of bunker busters, people like Henry Waxman (House) and Patrick Lehey (Senate) to ferret out doubledealing cleverly concealed as rules changes. We can strengthen the hands of these legislators by pressing hard for accountability, requiring that unambiguous language be used in all communications about the Bush, Jr. administration's intentions, and transparent rule-implementing procedures and processes, so that any citizen can "look over the shoulders" of all involved parties to determine what's really going on, what's at stake, who benefits/how much, and on what levels of influence we can have our desired effect.

    "That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn--or be forced--to accept." Impeachment for treason is an American value.

    by Enough Talk Lets Get Busy on Thu Dec 14, 2006 at 08:11:54 AM PST

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