Narrowing NEPA


One result of the Trump administration’s insidious policy changes to weaken the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, is the Bureau of Land Management’s use of so-called “vegetation treatment” programs (“Narrow NEPA,” September 2020). These environmentally destructive efforts involve stripping natural lowland forests, shrublands and grasslands using chaining, mowing, masticating, herbiciding and burning. The areas are then seeded with non-native forage grasses, which are favored by cattle and big game. These programs are supported by many ranchers and hunters, because they open up new land for grazing and hunting with little regard for protection of natural ecosystems. In the past, the BLM was required to go through the NEPA process for larger vegetation-removal proposals. This provided an opportunity for input from scientists and the public, which slowed down, modified or stopped some of these landscape-destruction schemes. However, by gutting NEPA, the Trump administration is stopping scientific and public review and enabling the BLM to plunge forward with natural vegetation removal while avoiding the public spotlight.

William Mahoney,

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