Dear Ms. Barker, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce (“the Chamber”) appreciates the opportunity to comment on the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service’s proposed revisions to its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. The Chamber supports the goal of increasing efficiency in the Forest Service’s environmental analysis while meeting NEPA’s requirements and honoring its environmental stewardship responsibilities. The Chamber applauds the Forest Service for taking steps to increase the pace and scale of work that would help the Forest Service achieve its mission to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of U.S. forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.
As the Forest Service recognizes in the proposed rule, an increasing percentage of the Agency’s resources have been diverted each year to provide for wildfire suppression, resulting in fewer resources and staff available for other management activities, further necessitating the need for more efficient NEPA decision making. Improvements in NEPA decision making can be made, in part, through the adoption of NEPA categorical exclusions, such as those proposed for the construction and maintenance of oil and natural gas drill sites, pipelines, powerlines, transmission facilities, and other rights-of-way (ROW).