If you get the AMA notices you should have this, believe it or not the AMA got this out before the comment period ends on Feb. 2, 2018.
Comment Period: Forest Service seeks comments on process changes
Special use permits top AMA members' concerns
The American Motorcyclist Association believes you may be interested in providing comments to the U.S. Forest Service in response to its call for suggested changes to the agency's National Environmental Policy Act procedures. The proposed change stems from decision-making backlogs, the agency's shift toward wildfire responses (dominating activities and budgets) and an executive order from President Donald Trump.
The current Forest Service NEPA procedures are detailed at 36 CFR part 220, Forest Service Manual 1950, and Forest Service Handbook 1909.15.
In its call for comments, the Forest Service noted these goals:
- Increase efficiency in moving through the NEPA process.
- Improve application of the NEPA process on landscape-scale restoration projects.
- Determine which types of activities could undergo an abbreviated NEPA review, because they pose minimal effects on natural resources, such as certain restoration projects, special use authorizations and activities to maintain and manage sites, facilities and associated infrastructure.
- Improve coordination with other agencies on multiagency projects.
The Forest Service also notes a backlog of more than 6,000 special-use permits awaiting completion, a topic familiar to many involved in off-highway recreation. The backlog is attributed in part to management time and budgets being devoted at an increasing rate to wildfire suppression. Those challenges are explained by a 39 percent decrease in non-fire personnel since 1995, when fire suppression accounted for 16 percent of the agency budget. In 2017, expenses in that category accounted for half of the budget.
The agency requests comments on these topics:
- Processes and analysis requirements that can be modified, reduced or eliminated to reduce time and cost, while maintaining science-based and high-quality analysis, public involvement and honoring agency stewardship responsibilities.
- Approaches to landscape-scale analysis and decision making under NEPA that facilitate restoration of National Forest System lands.
- Classes of actions that are unlikely, either individually or cumulatively, to have significant affect and should be categorically excluded from NEPA's environmental assessment and environmental impact statement requirements, such as integrated restoration projects, special use authorizations, and activities to maintain and manage agency sites (including recreation sites), facilities and associated infrastructure.
- Ways the agency might expand and improve coordination of environmental review and authorization decisions with other federal agencies, as well as state, tribal or local environmental reviews.
This call for suggested changes is in keeping with President Trump's Executive Order 13807, issued in August. That order deals primarily with infrastructure projects, including a two-year timeframe in which to complete all federal environmental reviews and authorization decisions. But it opens the door for improved recreation permitting, as well.
One of the more important opportunities is to increase the range of agency actions eligible for categorical exclusions to include previously permitted recreational events that have already undergone full NEPA review.
DEADLINE: Feb. 2
Submit comments through one of three methods. The Forest Service's preferred method is its public participation portal at https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public/CommentInput?project=ORMS-1797.
U.S. mail should be sent to NEPA Services Group, c/o Amy Barker; USDA Forest Service, Geospatial Technology and Applications Center, 2222 W. 2300 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84119.
Email should include "NEPA-procedures" in the subject line and be sent to [email protected].
For more information, contact Jim Smalls; assistant director, USFS Ecosystem Management Coordination, by phone at (202) 205-1475.
Thank you in advance for commenting. If you do submit comments, please forward a copy to us atgrassr[email protected]. Please forward this alert to your friends and ask them to submit comments too.