Udall, Democratic Colleagues Urge Forest Service To Listen To Fire Fighter And Forest Manager Input That Protects National Forests

Proposed NEPA rule would impact management decisions on 9 million acres of National Forest System land in New Mexico, could undermine scientific processes meant to protect our National Forests.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) joined a group of 25 Democratic senators in calling on the U.S. Forest Service to listen to the input of wildland fire fighters and forest managers and extend the public comment period for its proposed National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) rule. The new proposed rule could undermine the scientific processes currently considered in NEPA that protect National Forests, including those in New Mexico, by reducing critically important input from the public and forest officials. In a letter to the Forest Service, the senators requested an additional 46 days to the public comment period.

“In New Mexico we have seen first-hand how wildfires have grown in size and have become more severe. This dangerous issue is compounded by climate change, mismanaged forest practices, and increased development in the wildland-urban interface— putting more lives and acres of forest at risk. The Forest Service should extend the public comment period so that New Mexicans – who are directly affected by wildfires – and all relevant parties are able to have a seat at the discussion table with sufficient time to review changes to forest management policy before they are implemented,” Udall said. “Restoration of National Forests is critically important, and now more than ever, management of forests needs to be science-based to best protect communities and restore habitats.”

“The proposed NEPA rule would impact management decisions on all 193 million acres of land in the National Forest System,” the senators wrote to U.S. Forest Service Chief Victoria Christiansen. “It is critical the public be provided ample time to thoroughly review and comment on a rule that would not only alter how the Forest Service manages our National Forests, but significantly change one of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws.”

“The additional time gives the public— particularly those on the ground managing our forests and fighting wildfires, conducting field studies of species or managing recreation businesses on these treasured lands during the summer months— the time they need to review and provide comment on a rule that could considerably change current management practices,” the senators continued.
In addition to Senator Udall, the letter to the Forest Service was also signed by U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-Ore.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.).

The full text of the letter is available HERE and below.