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COMMENTS DUE to Save Forests from Bush

Comments are due on Feb 18th (Tomorrow) on Bush's proposed changes to the Appeals Reform Act. These changes will make it increasingly difficult (and in many cases impossible) for the public to comment on and appeal timber sales. To submit comments on-line, you can go to:  http://ga1.org/campaign/forest_appeals
Have you submitted your comments yet on Bush's proposed changes to the Appeals Reform Act? They are due tomorrow, Feb 18th. As you may know, these changes will make it increasingly difficult (and in many cases impossible) for the public to comment and appeal timber sales. It is very important that the Bush administration receives a slew of opposition comments to these proposed changes. TO SUBMIT ON-LINE COMMENTS, YOU CAN GO TO :  http://ga1.org/campaign/forest_appeals

You can also email in variations on the sample letter below to :

USDA Forest Service, Appeal Rule Content Analysis Team
P. O. Box 9079
Missoula, MT 59807
fax: 406-329-3556
E-mail:  215appeals@fs.fed.us

If you fax or e-mail your comments, be sure to include your name and full snail mail address.

SAMPLE LETTER:
USDA Forest Service, Appeal Rule Content Analysis Team
P. O. Box 9079
Missoula, MT 59807


I am appalled at the Bush Administration's recent efforts to reduce public participation in the management of our National Forests. People should not be denied the opportunity to express their views about proposed Forest Service management projects, and to challenge agency decisions with which they disagree.

In particular, I strongly oppose the proposed changes to the Forest Service's regulation that implement the Appeals Reform Act of 1993. Those changes would reduce the ability of citizens to learn about and comment on proposed management activities. They would also make it much harder for people to file meaningful administrative appeals of agency decisions.

I am especially concerned about these aspects of the Appeal Reform Act regulations:

(a) allowing projects under appeal to be implemented immediately for economic reasons such as salvage logging;

(b) exempting relatively small timber sales from comment and appeal;

(c) limiting appealable issues to those specifically raised in comments;

(d) only considering "substantive" comments;

(e) omitting interested parties from the appeal process;
and,

(f) exempting project decisions made by Department of Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman or Under Secretary Mark Rey.

Specifically, I recomend:

1. All people who comment must retain the right to appeal, as required by the Appeals Reform Act.

2. All decisions approving Forest Service projects be subject to notice, comment, and appeal, as required by the Appeals Reform Act.

3. I insist that emergency situations be limited to specific, imminent threats to human life, health, or safety.

4. Official notices for comment on projects should not be issued until the projects are fully designed and the possible impacts from them fully disclosed; i. e., when a draft environmental document is published, as is the case under the current appeal regulation.

5. All projects approved with a categorical exclusion (CE) that include commercial timber havest must be subject to comment and appeal. I am particuarly concerned about fuel reduction projects. Under other changes brought by the Bush administration, there will be a huge increase in commercial harvest for fuel reduction under categorical exclusions. All of these projects must be subject to comment and appeal.

6. Interested parties should be allowed to participate in the resolution of appeals submitted by others.

The proposal to weaken the Appeals Reform Act regulations is one of several regulatory changes that will drastically limit public involvement and analysis of environmental impacts. Others would exempt many forest plans, thinning projects, and salvage timber sales from the requirementsof the National Environmental Policy Act, for example. The Administration must acknowledge and explain the drastic cumulative impacts of these regulatory changes to public involvement and environmental protection in the National Forests.

I strongly urge the Administration to withdraw this proposal to weaken the Appeals Reform Act regulations. The proposal is fundamentally undemocratic and a betrayal of the millions of Americans who care about their National Forests and are entitled to a voice in their management.

Sincerely,



*The Sample Letter and Alert are compiled from the alerts by Colorado Wild and the Wilderness Society