SOURCE: Bloomberg Law

DATE: June 12, 2020

SNIP: Oil, logging, mining, and grazing will be the priorities of national forests and grasslands, with expedited environmental oversight, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue told the U.S. Forest Service Friday.

His memo announced a “blueprint for reforms” that refocuses the Forest Service to produce products and services from the 193 million acres of forests, grasslands, and wilderness areas it oversees.

Purdue also directed the Forest Service to focus on grazing and make it easier for ranchers to obtain grazing permits. The Bureau of Land Management is working on a similar effort.

The Forest Service is under a similar directive as the BLM to speed through environmental reviews of projects under the National Environmental Policy Act—part of an administration-wide effort to amend the law’s regulations.

The memo appears to implement an executive order that President Donald Trump signed last week, directing federal agencies to use the coronavirus pandemic to expedite infrastructure projects on federal lands, said Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, a trade group representing fossil fuel companies operating on public lands.

Purdue’s memo codifies his own rhetoric about the uses of national forests, which he believes should be focused on production over conservation, said Jim Furnish, a former Forest Service deputy chief in former President Bill Clinton’s administration.

The memo takes “the Forest Service back to where they were 50 years ago when they were just used as a commodity-producing agency,” Furnish said.

The Center for Biological Diversity said the memo represents a “dystopian” vision for forest management amid an extinction crisis and a warming planet.

“This is a roadmap to national forest destruction, and it’s painful to read,” Randi Spivak, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s public lands program, said in a statement.

“This will increase air and water pollution, kill wildlife and increase carbon pollution. It’s the extractive industry’s agenda on steroids,” she said.