On August 26, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted comments on the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) proposed rule to revise its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations.
CSF supported many of the proposed categorical exclusions (CEs) and process clarifications, including CEs for issuing outfitting and guiding permits, rehabilitating roads and carrying out ecosystem restoration activities, that would increase the efficiency of environmental analysis. In addition to recommendations for the USFS to work with states and state fish and wildlife agencies on the development of the rules, CSF specifically recommended consultation with state fish and wildlife agencies on the CEs related to infrastructure, roads, and trails.
Andy Treharne, CSF’s Senior Director of Federal Policy, stated, “The proposed rule changes are needed because the USFS, under current regulations, is unable to adequately address wildlife and forest health needs at an effective scale or in an efficient manner. With the increased percentage of agency resources consumed by fire suppression efforts, few resources available for management, a maintenance backlog of over $5 billion, declining timber harvests and fewer active management projects that are critical to supporting quality wildlife habitat, we support reducing the expense and length of time to conduct NEPA analyses by equipping the USFS with expanded tools and by clarifying process requirements.”
The USFS proposed to revise its NEPA regulations to increase the pace and scale of its work on National Forest System (NFS) lands to address the backlog of special use permits and restoration needs on more than 80 million acres. CSF is a strong proponent of using active forest management tools to improve wildlife habitat and access for sportsmen and women.
Treharne wrote, “Adopting the proposed revisions are a positive step that would save time and resources to facilitate the implementation of more forest restoration and wildlife habitat improvement projects. We believe that the rule refinements and the new CEs are needed to restore NFS lands by moving them towards a more balanced age class distribution to increase forest resiliency, support wildlife, and improve access for sportsmen and women.”
CSF previously submitted comments on the USFS’s advanced notice of proposed rulemaking and will continue to be engaged in the process moving forward.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?