Target: Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell
Goal: Give ‘We the People’ better representation when it comes to decisions made about our public lands.
Our public lands are supposed to be the national legacy of all Americans, and yet we have no direct representation when it comes to how this magnificent gift is treated. The United States Forest Service (USFS) only holds a public hearing and invites comments when unveiling those new proposals for which comments are allowed, because many are exempt from the process. After receiving comments, there is no statutory requirement that USFS make any adjustments in response to any feedback they receive.
The speed and size of clear cutting on public lands has accelerated over the last decade, but the process remains the same — which means clear cutting opponents are spread thinner and thinner, even as the National Climate Assessment has identified deforestation as a primary driver of climate change. Much clear cutting is done deep in the woods where its destructive effects are only visible to the most avid hikers. That means the USFS can receive almost no comments about enormous projects because the general public is largely ignorant about most of the activity taking place in their legacy. When a cut is protested by an activist, the issue of how to deal with the complaint is decided by USFS. Even when a protest makes it to a civil court, there is no guarantee that the same area might not be targeted for logging again, at a later time.
A Citizen Ombudsman program — which would establish a third-party committee to represent citizen interests when decisions about public lands are being made by the USFS — would ensure that the people’s voice was always present at the table when project ideas were first being formed. Because clear cutting is conducted at the taxpayer’s expense, we can legally demand: No taxation without representation.
Dear Secretary Jewell,
An overwhelming majority of Americans agree our national parks are a true treasure. However although our public lands are intended to be the legacy of all Americans, the people who manage them do not give Americans any direct voice in how they are utilized or how ‘multiple use’ is defined. We are only allowed to submit comments on certain proposals, after being finalized. No USFS proposals provide for citizen oversight in their development. In the case of remote cuts, most of the public have no idea what is being done to their legacy.
For example, the Scoping Report for the Bowen Brook Logging Project in the White Mountain National Forest proposes an enormous 8,000 acre Project Area, with 2,600 acres of logging that will remove a breathtaking 20-25 million board feet of timber. Its remote location will require considerable road building but because it is remote, the public will be kept in the dark.
We the People pay the bill for logging our public lands and, as such, should be represented by an Ombudsman in each federal district during all decision making stages.
[You Name Here]
Photo Credit: Tero Laakso