How Environmental Analysis Inadvertently Drains the Forest Service Budget

U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen said her agency was failing to meet the challenges of unhealthy forests and catastrophic wildfires. She admitted the agency is not reducing the risk, and “America’s forests are in crisis.”

The Forest Service took an important step forward by releasing proposed changes to modernize how the agency complies with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This environmental law, initially approved by Congress in 1969, requires federal agencies to report the potential environmental effects of proposed actions. Most agencies comply with this law without draining their financial and human resources, even for major infrastructure projects.

Changes are needed because the Forest Service has been negatively influenced by anti-forestry activism and the real and perceived threat of litigation over NEPA compliance. Consequently, the agency developed a risk-averse culture, requiring its people to spend more time preparing paperwork when they should be actively managing and mitigating the threats to multiple-use public lands, especially those that have been identified as suitable for timber harvests.

The Hill