Keep the Public in Public Lands Management
By: Ian Roche
Public lands were the gateway to conservation for me. Whether it was catching grasshoppers in the backyard or family camping trips across the state I was always happy to be outside as a kid. The joy that our public lands have always brought to my life is why I work for an organization that is fighting for this incredible state.
Unfortunately, we have spent much of our time since the 2016 election fighting to maintain our access — and now, input — on our public lands. Since the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) almost 50 years ago, the public has had the ability to help direct the management of our public lands. Now, the current administration is attempting to erode the opportunity for public input and engagement in public land management decisions. Under the Trump administration, “streamlining the process” is code for expedited mineral extraction and development of our public lands.
The Forest Service has proposed a rule that would gut the NEPA process through the expansion of the definition of Categorical Exclusions (CEs). A CE is a project that, due to meeting a set of criteria, is determined to not have an impact on the human environment. Typically, projects that are classified as CE’s are not only not put out for public comment, but because the agency believes they met the criteria, they do not receive any significant impact analysis. By expanding this definition the Forest Service would be largely cutting the public out of our public lands management process.
It is irresponsible and unacceptable to attempt to cut the public out of public land management. The Forest Service is attempting to justify this decision as a way to deal with backlogs in the NEPA process. However, there are no justifications to rubber stamp public land management, unless the goal of our current Administration is to expedite extractive industries and their projects on our National Forest land. Healthy public lands are vital to Coloradans and it is imperative that we are involved in their management. It is the best way for us to maintain the integrity of our beautiful state.
At its best, our system of public land access is a model for the world. And though our public lands may have a dark and troubled past, it is up to all of us to maintain the integrity of this institution and let the Federal Government know it is not acceptable to cut us out of the management of our own public lands.
If you love our public lands like I do, I hope you will tell the Trump Administration they don’t own these lands, we have entrusted them with the management of OUR lands. To make your voice heard take action by Monday, August 26th and tell them you want to be involved in the management of your public lands.