A new rule finalized on Wednesday will open up national forests to increased logging. The United States Forest Service made changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a conservation law, that will allow the Forest Service to allow logging and road-building on national forest land that is 2,800 acres of larger in the western part of the country.
The new rule will “authorize logging and other activities without following NEPA’s public notification and environmental review requirements,” according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
“The new categorical exclusions will ultimately improve our ability to maintain and repair the infrastructure people depend on to use and enjoy their national forests—such as roads, trails, campgrounds and other facilities,” Sonny Perdue, U.S. Agriculture Secretary who oversees the Forest Service, said.
Logging has been used to “thin forests and make them more resilient in the face of wildfire threats,” but this strategy isn’t supported by conservationists. Conservation leaders believe this move will negatively impact the environment instead of protect public lands.
“The Forest Service just granted itself a free pass to increase commercial logging and roadbuilding across our national forests under the guise of restoration,” Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.
Conservationists vow to challenge the revisions to NEPA in court.