Guest Opinion: Don’t gut NEPA provisions for local voices to be heard |

Guest Opinion: Don’t gut NEPA provisions for local voices to be heard

Rachel Richards

I was happy to see the Post Independent publish an article two weeks ago (Wednesday, Aug. 7 PI), educating people about the U.S. Forest Service’s proposed rule changes for how it implements the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

NEPA is the bedrock law that governs how federal agencies manage our public lands. It requires land managers to analyze the potential environmental impacts of proposed projects on public lands, and disclose those impacts to the public for feedback and comment. 

NEPA also ensures that public and environmental interests are thoughtfully considered when projects are proposed by proponents who don’t necessarily hold those interests as a top priority. 

Our communities here on the Western Slope are surrounded by public lands. Local governments rely on the NEPA process to engage in public land management decisions, many of which stand to impact not only our public lands, wildlife, and habitats, but also our economy and way of life. 

We rely heavily on opportunities for public comment and environmental review to ensure that the values of our constituents, as well as the needs of our municipalities, are considered and protected. Local residents and governments have a deep knowledge of and relationship with local public lands, and as such, we are often best-able to identify issues, needs and challenges of those lands. 

The existing public participation requirements under NEPA are what allowed our local communities to push back against bad leasing decisions made in the Thompson Divide and successfully achieve cancellation of 25 illegally issued oil and gas leases there. The lease cancellation wouldn’t have happened without NEPA’s requirements for environmental review and public participation. 

And, indeed, if NEPA had been properly implemented to begin with, the illegal leases may never have been sold. There may not be a better example of the importance of adequate analysis and meaningful opportunities for public participation. 

Now, the Forest Service is proposing administrate changes to how it implements NEPA, which would drastically reduce the ability of the public and local governments to weigh-in. The new plan would leave the public with no role in more than 93 percent of the decisions and projects made on our national forests — a clear violation of the public trust and the intent of NEPA. 

If the proposed rule changes are adopted, clearcutting and bulldozing of millions of acres of national forest lands could be approved with little to no public oversight. 

The Forest Service argues that this rule change is a necessary response to their increasingly limited staff and budget, allowing them to streamline the process and approve projects more efficiently. 

I believe the answer is not to gut the law at the expense of scientific analysis and public participation, but rather for Congress to provide the Forest Service with the resources it requires to properly implement NEPA. I also believe that streamlining NEPA’s implementing regulations could be done in a more targeted and thoughtful way. 

This far-reaching and extreme proposal is less about streamlining and more about steamrolling. The drastic changes proposed here would be more appropriately considered by Congress, since they are so broad as to undermine the original intent of NEPA. 

Bottom line, preserving the NEPA process preserves the ability of local governments to continue to have a say in how our federal public lands are managed, which is why the City of Aspen and several other municipalities and counties across the Western Slope have weighed-in with comments reiterating this message. 

If this rule change is implemented, communities like ours, as well as those across the west, will be adversely impacted.

Please ask the Forest Service to preserve NEPA and public process by emailing your comments to

Rachel Richards is a current member of the Aspen City Council, and a former Pitkin County commissioner.

The G7, a group of seven leading economies, is now meeting in southern France. For the second year in a row, President Trump has not joined the other heads of state to create plans to deal with global warming and climate change.

Imagine if you will that a hostile navy, air force and a fleet of nuclear missiles were bearing down on the U.S. and the president said, “It’s a hoax, I’ve got a tee time.” Wouldn’t we remove that person of their command; like, replace the commander in chief?

This is dereliction of duty. This is a failure to protect the country from “all threats foreign and domestic.”

Catastrophic climate change in now in progress. This existential threat needs to be fought in the same way we fight a war. This is a “war of the worlds, to echo HG Wells.

The people who keep insisting climate change isn’t happening are a liability for the rest of humanity. The deniers include the phony scientists employed by the fossil fuel companies, the lying politicians who are on the take and care only about staying in office, and members of the public who just have a problem accepting the obvious.

In war, those who aid and abet the enemy are escorted to “correctional facilities.”

We need to start forming the groups that will have the clout to make the changes. France had the yellow jackets; Hong Kong had the crowds in the airport.

Patrick Hunter,


No clue

I used to admire the intelligence George Will displayed in his op-eds. Now, the never-Trump hate dripping off every word he writes has destroyed any credibility he had.

Will predicted Trump would lose by greater margins than Goldwater’s feeble numbers. What’s the matter George, can’t get over not having a clue?

Bruno Kirchenwitz,


Pass gun reform laws

Isn’t it about time that the politicians in Washington bring back what was law in 1994? Aren’t you all rather tired of the rhetoric and nothing getting done? Aren’t you tired of the NRA and dark money ruling our politics?

You bet I’m angry. I’m angry at the Republicans and Moscow Mitch who refuses to bring a vote to the floor that the Democrats have put forth on gun control. Good bills just sit there because Mitch McConnell chooses to concentrate on his money and his position, rather than the health and welfare of the country. What does it take, Republicans, as more mass shootings occur every year in our country? Where are your morals? Do you have to wait until someone in your own family is killed in a mass shooting?

President Trump keeps saying it’s mental illness and not the guns that are the issue. However, our broken health care system has no health reform plan or anything in the works to address mental health issues. If a Texas mass murderer kills out of hate for a group of people, he is no different from a jihadi suicide bomber. Call it mental illness or extremism, it comes from the same place to the same end.

Regulate guns the way you regulate cars, License the owners, tag them, insure them and limit ammunition! There are a million options for getting a handle on the problem of mass murder by assault weapons in the U.S. Republicans have done nothing, following the lead of President Trump!

LittletonAfter 9/11 we passed all sorts of anti-terrorism laws that only deal with foreign terrorism/extremism. These need to be expanded to include our own home grown terrorists.

Linda Carr


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