USFS Proposes Categorical Exclusion Rule

The Forest Service is proposing to supplement its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations (36 CFR Part 220) with three new categorical exclusions for activities that restore lands negatively impacted by water control structures, natural and human caused events, and roads and trails.

The proposed road and trail restoration category would be used for restoring lands impacted by non-system roads and trails that are no longer needed and no longer maintained. This category would not be used to make access decisions about which roads and trails are to be designated for public use.

These categorical exclusions will allow the Forest Service to more efficiently analyze and document the potential environmental effects of soil and water restoration projects that are intended to: (1) restore the flow of waters into natural channels and floodplains by removing water control structures, such as dikes, ditches, culverts and pipes; (2) restore lands and habitat to pre-disturbance conditions, to the extent practicable, by removing debris, sediment, and hazardous conditions following natural or human-caused events; and (3) restore lands occupied by roads and trails to natural conditions.

In 2009, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack called for restoring forestlands to protect water resources, the climate, and terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The Forest Service spends significant resources on NEPA analyses and documentation for a variety of land management projects. The Agency believes that it is possible to improve the efficiency of the NEPA process to speed the pace of forest and watershed restoration, while not sacrificing sound environmental analysis.

Comments must be received in writing on or before August 13, 2012.

Click here to read the complete Federal Register Notice.

Click here for more information about the proposed categorical exclusion for soil and water restoration


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