The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)– arguably the country’s strongest and most effective environmental law– is under unprecedented attack from right-wing opponents in Congress.

February 6 is the last day for public comment on the report of the NEPA Task Force. Chaired by Rep. Cathy McMorris (R-WA) and reporting to the House Resources Committee chaired by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), the task force has been holding hearings on NEPA around the country. On Dec. 21, 2005 the panel issued its report.

Conservationists and moderate lawmakers have regarded the task force as a charade from its beginning. McMorris and Pombo have scheduled its hearings whenever possible in conservative and rural towns, avoiding large cities with a broader spectrum of opinion.

The report, released without member endorsement, contains 13 recommendations for changes to NEPA. Several recommendations, if implemented, would dramatically limit public involvement in the NEPA process.

The recommendations would add mandatory timelines for the completion of NEPA documentation and only allow for occasional extensions. They would place significant restrictions on a citizen's ability to participate in the public process and to challenge an agency's decisions. Finally, they would require that "reasonable alternatives," including those proposed by individual citizens or community groups, be supported by "feasibility and engineering studies," which could require technical and financial resources more readily available to large, well-heeled corporations than to ordinary citizens.

NEPA now requires federal agencies and federally funded developers to consider the environmental impacts of their proposed actions, to look at alternatives, and to solicit public comment. Based on this NEPA evaluation, a project– such as bulldozing a rare blue-oak woodland on federal ranch land– may be modified to protect environmental values or stopped altogether.

The ability of interested citizens and environmental groups such as Forests Forever to influence federal land-use decisions in favor of conservation rests largely on NEPA. McMorris, Pombo and their allies have publicly stated that they intend to make deep changes in this cornerstone of environmental law. The conservation community is solidly opposed to this blatant attempt to weaken NEPA.


Write to the NEPA Task Force and urge it to leave NEPA unchanged. Use the sample letter below as a guide– but please feel free to rewrite it in your own words.


To: House Resource Committee NEPA Task Force:

Please accept these comments on the Initial Findings and Draft Recommendations from the National Environmental Policy Act Task Force.

I am very concerned that the recommendations by the NEPA Task Force would weaken NEPA in fundamental ways.

NEPA is the best tool Americans have to learn how federal projects may affect their environment. It also is the best tool the federal government has to examine the proposed projects and obtain public input. By making sure that the public is informed and that alternatives are considered, NEPA has stopped some unwise and harmful projects and made countless projects better. And even though the report acknowledges that public participation is fundamental to NEPA’s success, the Task Force has made several recommendations that dramatically limit who, when, and how the public can participate in all levels of the NEPA process.

I am very concerned that the recommendations: 1) add mandatory timelines for the completion of NEPA documentation and only allow for occasional extensions, 2) place significant restrictions on a citizen’s ability to participate in the public process and to challenge an agency’s decision-making process, which could unfairly tip the balance in favor of profit over public values, and 3) require that "reasonable alternatives," including those proposed by individual citizens or community groups, be supported by feasibility and engineering studies. Few ordinary citizens or public-interest organizations have the technical or financial resources to prepare such studies.

The recommendations to amend NEPA and embark on drastic regulatory changes that reduce public participation should be rejected. I ask that you listen to the 10 former members of the federal Council on Environmental Quality who have said that NEPA does not need any legislative changes.

However, thoughtful analysis and review of NEPA have long shown that there is a need to improve implementation. Providing agency personnel with adequate training and resources to carry out monitoring responsibilities and making environmental mitigation promises mandatory on the part of developers are just a few good ideas that should be considered and do not require amending NEPA or its regulations.

I strongly urge the Task Force to withdraw its recommendations and leave the National Environmental Policy Act unchanged.


Your Name
Your Address

Send your comments to nepataskforce@mail.house.gov by February 6, 2006

Or by mail to:

NEPA Draft Report Comments
c/o NEPA Task Force
Committee on Resources
1324 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Or by fax: 202-225-5929

Please also send a copy of your letter to your U.S. representative, and to Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. Visit http://www.congress.org to get contact information for your members of Congress.

Click here for a full copy of the report:

Click here for a list of some of the most egregious recommendations from Pombo’s NEPA Task Force:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


February 6 is also the last day to sign the citizens’ petition to reinstate the Roadless Area Conservation Rule of 2001.

Last year the Bush administration repealed the widely supported roadless rule, opening nearly 60 million acres of America's last wild federal land to logging, road construction, mining, oil exploration, and other forms of development.

Under the new policy if governors wish to have roadless areas within their state protected they must complete a burdensome petition process and file their recommendations with political appointees at the USDA. Federal bureaucrats are then free to accept, modify or reject these petitions, while elected officials and citizens outside those states have no say at all about the fate of these taxpayer-owned national treasures.

Conservationists throughout the country are joining together to file an official petition with the Bush administration to demand the reinstatement of the 2001 rule. Some 75 organizations are gathering signatures.


The last day to sign the petition is Mon., Feb. 6.

As of this writing, 553 Forests Forever supporters have signed on. Forests Forever would like to thank you all for your support of this issue. If you have not yet signed , just follow the link below.

Click Here by Feb 6 to protect America's last roadless forests:

If the link does not work, copy it and paste it in your web browser.

A petition with all of the signatures will be presented to President Bush and the Department of Agriculture.
Additionally, a copy of the petition will be delivered to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.



Forests Forever:
Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection
John J. Berger

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places