A task force led by a California congressman notorious for his opposition to environmental laws is touring the country this summer, trying to drum up a show of support to attack one of the most important pieces of environmental legislation.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 is the keystone of federal environmental policy. The act requires federal agencies and federally funded developers to consider the environmental impacts of their proposed actions, look at alternatives, and solicit public comment. Based on this NEPA evaluation, a project– such as a timber sale on a national forest– may be modified to protect environmental values or stopped altogether.

The ability of environmental groups (such as Forests Forever) to influence federal land-use decisions in favor of conservation rests largely on NEPA. For example, Forests Forever recently informed thousands of Californians about an opportunity to modify– through public comments-– logging and land-use plans in the Sierra Nevada.

Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Tracy) has organized this traveling circus to give his industry allies a forum for attacking NEPA. Based on these attacks, Pombo can then justify legislation that will weaken the law.

The so-called NEPA Task Force will hold the second of six planned field hearings on Sat., June 18, this one in Lakeside, Ariz. Republicans in Congress are looking for ways to weaken the provisions of NEPA, claiming that they are too costly and complicated. With the GOP in the majority in both houses of Congress and holding the presidency, NEPA opponents now think they see their opportunity. We can prove them wrong.


The NEPA Task Force is accepting public comment through August. Please take a moment to let them know your thoughts on this important law.

In addition, comments sent before June 23, 2005, to Lisa Dix of American Lands Alliance at ldix@americanlands.org will be hand-delivered by her to the NEPA Task Force in Washington, DC, to ensure that the comments are submitted into the record for the Southwest hearing.

Points to make in your letter:

o NEPA is the best guarantee that American citizens will get complete information about federal projects that affect them, be presented with a range of alternatives, and ensure that their voices are heard in the government’s decision-making process.

o NEPA helps make certain that the government is working for the people, not against them. It helps to keep the decision-making process open, and gives average citizens a voice to balance the influence of special interests.

o There is no need to improve upon NEPA. It has been working well. It has kept unnecessarily harmful projects from being undertaken and made many projects better. Limiting public involvement and weakening environmental review will not improve the process.

o Rather than causing "analysis paralysis," as Pombo and his friends claim, NEPA saves time and money by addressing problems before a project is undertaken, building consensus, and providing alternatives.

Your own experience is the best argument. If you can, include specific examples of how public participation in the NEPA process helped protect human health, your community, and the environment, and how the availability of alternatives led to informed decision-making and improved projects.

You can email your comments to nepataskforce@mail.house.gov. Please send a copy of your letter to your representative, and to senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. Visit http://www.congress.org to get contact information for your congressional representatives.

Make sure the first line of your letter indicates that you wish your comments to be entered into the record for the hearing on the role of NEPA in the states of Arizona, California, and Nevada, and include your address and phone number at the end of your comments.

Include the following header at the top of your letter:

[Your Name]
[Your Title]
[Your Organization (if you are representing one)]
Written Testimony
To the Committee on Resources
United States House of Representatives.
The role of NEPA in the States of Arizona, California, Nevada


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

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places