With Trump setting his sights on destroying one of our key environmental laws, Guardians and our allies are working overtime to #ProtectNEPA. Learn more about NEPA, why it’s important to people and planet (and Guardians!), and why Trump wants to dismantle it below.
What is NEPA?
NEPA is short for the National Environmental Policy Act. Since its inception in 1970, NEPA has been our nation’s basic charter for environmental protection, holding our federal government accountable to the public and the planet.
NEPA requires the federal government to conduct an environmental review to discover if a project will significantly affect the environment and public before any decisions are made on that project. To do this, the government must disclose its plans to the public. Members of the public then have the chance to voice their concerns, leading to better projects (and shutting down damaging and dangerous ones).
For example, if the Forest Service or U.S. Bureau of Land Management wants to allow mining, oil and gas development, or logging on public lands, NEPA requires the agency to notify the public and to do an environmental analysis of the impacts that the project may have on fish, wildlife and plants, water quality, air quality, recreation, and other resources. NEPA enables the public to provide comments on the analysis, and to challenge bad projects in court.
How Guardians uses NEPA to defend the West
NEPA is an invaluable tool in Guardians’ ongoing defense of the American West. Without NEPA, we couldn’t stop the arsonist Hammond family from grazing their cattle on public lands; expose the policies and infrastructure expansion that kill living rivers and threaten endangered species; keep coal, oil, and gas in the ground; and much more.
Below is just a short list of what Guardians’ programs have accomplished thanks to NEPA!
Climate and Energy Program
Forced the Interior Department to pay attention to the climate impacts of selling public lands for oil and gas extraction in the American West
Mobilized thousands of members and supporters to engage in National Environmental Policy Act reviews that ultimately led the Bureau of Land Management to cancel plans to sell public lands for fracking in the Greater Chaco region, next to Rocky Mountain National Park, and near Yellowstone National Park
Leveraged NEPA to compel more transparency and environmental accountability around coal mining on public lands throughout the Western U.S.
Win against Wildlife Services in Idaho – Forced the secretive federal wildlife-killing program, Wildlife Services, to fully analyze the environmental risks of trapping, poisoning, and shooting native wildlife like mountain lions, coyotes, and foxes, after Wildlife Services failed to reveal to the public the potential consequences of its actions.
Win against Wildlife Services in Nevada – Challenged Wildlife Services’ refusal to analyze the impacts of its wildlife killing in Nevada under NEPA. Wildlife Services to conduct a new environmental analysis of its wildlife-killing activities in Nevada and update all its analyses nationwide, plus cease all killing activities on more than six million acres of public lands until its analysis was complete.
Wild Places Program
Ochoco Summit Trail System Project – The Ochoco National Forest in Oregon proposed creating this 137-mile network of roads and trails for off-highway vehicle (“OHV”) use. Guardians, our allies, and many members of the public provided extensive comments opposing the trail and our concerns that the agency had violated NEPA by not analyzing the impacts of the road, trails, and increased motorized use on wildlife such as elk and wolves, and the area’s fragile wetlands and riparian zones. The judge agreed with us and the project was enjoined.
The Medicine Bow Landscape Analysis Vegetation (LaVA) Project covered 850,000 acres and would have logged 360,000 of them, including 123,000 acres across 25 different Roadless Areas, and built 600 miles of roads, which fragment habitat and destroy water quality. Guardians and our allies, including many local concerned citizens, used the NEPA process to voice our concerns and opposition, and provide significant scientific information. Due to the overwhelming public opposition and pointed comments, the Forest Service withdrew the project.
Bighorn Sheep – Protected bighorn sheep in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest in Idaho from the risk of disease transmission and competition from domestic sheep.
Wild Rivers Program:
San Acacia Levee Project – Exposed the harm of concrete infrastructure—which kills living rivers and threatens endangered species—on the Rio Grande. We also participated in a similar project, the Bernalillo to Belen Levee Project, just upstream.
Rio Grande Project Storage – Participated in the NEPA public process to question storage and operating procedures at Elephant Butte Dam near Truth or Consequences, N.M., that would allow for more water losses due to evaporation and threaten the largest population of Southwestern willow flycatchers. After Guardians’ comments and threatened litigation, a part of the proposal was dropped.
Why is the Trump administration attacking NEPA?
With its track record of dismantling and destroying environmental protections, it’s hardly surprising that the Trump administration has taken aim at NEPA. No NEPA means the administration can operate in secret, approving any and all projects that would prioritize profit over people and planet. And without public input to put the brakes on new projects, the Trump administration is free to sell us out to frackers, coal mining companies, and polluters at the expense of our climate, wildlife, and clean air and water.
What you can do to help
YOU can protect people’s voices by protecting NEPA! Here are just a few things you can do to help:
- Submit a comment supporting NEPA on the federal government’s portal before 3/10!
- ATTEND THE PUBLIC HEARING IN WASHINGTON, D.C. on 2/25!
- SHARE THIS POST with friends, family, and anyone who cares about public input, transparency, the environment, and the future of our planet.