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Heritage Forests Campaign News Release

May 6, 2003

Forest Service Block Comments From Average Citizens

Proposed Forest Planning Regulations Limit Public Participation
Buried in the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) regulations printed in the Federal Register on December 6, 2002 is a proposal to limit the public’s ability to appeal a final forest plan. The proposal states: "Only original substantive comments that meet objection content requirements set out in paragraph (d)(2) of this section will be accepted. Form letters, check-off lists, pre-printed post cards, or similar duplicative materials will not be accepted as objections." To view the regulations go to:

In a recent news article, the Forest Service’s Walsh said "If you’re going to take the time to respond and you care, then put some effort into it," but later in the same article he says the agency has received a number of objections to the proposed policy against electronic communications and "could very well adjust this in the final regulation." To read the article, go to:

Forest Service Not Participating in Government Public Comment Website
The Forest Service also made it impossible for the public to comment on any of its proposed regulations through the www.regulations.gov website, ironically described as "the U.S. Government web site that makes it easier for you to participate in Federal rulemaking - an essential part of the American democratic process." While the USDA is listed on this site, current forest policy regulations open for comment are not listed. All this, despite the Forest Service stating on its website "At Regulations.gov citizens can view a description of every proposed Federal regulation currently open for comment and subsequently submit comments to the corresponding Federal agency."

Forest Service Claims Citizen Email Is Spam
The Forest Service is also rejecting electronic comments from countless Americans across the country, claiming that these comments are "spam." Users who receive a bounced back email are informed that their email was determined to be SPAM and are given no further information about how to submit their comment. When this problem was brought to their attention, the Forest Service refused to eliminate or change their spam filter, knowingly jeopardizing countless public comments.

Bush Administration Gearing Up To Stifle Comments on Popular Rule?
To date, the Forest Service has received more than two million comments in support of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule -- nearly ten times as many comments as any other federal rulemaking process -- yet the Forest Service appears poised to ignore these public comments by gutting the rule. In a recent interview Forest Service Chief Bosworth said: "My view is that we're not counting votes anyway. But it always ends up becoming an issue. People say, ‘If you have 1.6 million comments on an issue and 95 percent of them went one way, then how can you possibly do something different?’ It just distorts the picture." To read the article, go to:

The Forest Service’s motto is "Caring for the land and serving the people," while, its guiding principles say, "We promote grassroots participation in our decisions and activities."

However, recent efforts by the Forest Service to stifle public comments on national forest policies, put them in direct opposition with their own creed. The right to question or petition your government is a fundamental principal of our democracy. Emails, postcards and petitions demonstrate that a certain issue is important to a particular segment of the taxpaying public and should be considered -- not ignored. Narrowly limiting the way the American public can express its views or telling them how to do this, not only stifles citizens’ voices, but borders on being unconstitutional. The actions of the Forest Service sets a dangerous precedent for the federal government ignoring the concerns of average citizens.

For more information, see HFC's statement on the Forest Service Ignoring the Public.

Contact: Tony Iallonardo, NET
(202) 887-8855

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