The Trump administration is at it again, this time taking a wrecking ball to America’s bedrock environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA is the only law that requires the federal government to consider the environmental impacts of its decisions and gives the public a voice in those decisions.
Over the law’s 50-year history, citizens have relied on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to protect our public lands from a host of threats ranging from mining, road building, logging, and burning, to herbicide spraying and livestock grazing. Wilderness Watch has relied on the NEPA to defend America’s National Wilderness Preservation System—and the wildlife that calls it home—from predator control, motor vehicle use, helicopters, grazing developments, and even new mining and roads.
The administration’s proposal would dismantle NEPA as we know it—by allowing more resource exploitation and environment damage on our public lands with little regard to imperiled plants and wildlife, clean water, clean air or even Wilderness.
Agencies will no longer need to consider an area’s “unique characteristics” (which courts have interpreted to include Wilderness designation) when determining whether an Environmental Impact Statement is necessary, essentially allowing agencies to disregard the special status of Wilderness.
The proposed new rule creates loopholes for the federal government to ignore public comment. NEPA is the only law that gives the public a voice in federal decision making, so any attempt to limit public comment silences people and communities interested in protection of our public lands, particularly those who could be harmed the most by federal actions.
And if all this isn’t enough, incredibly, mining, logging and other extractive industries would be allowed to conduct their own environmental review, completely blurring the lines on conflicts of interest.
Photo: Sawtooth Wilderness, Idaho by Leon Werdinger Photography.