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Southwest Virginia lawsuit seeks to stop Rollback of Protections For All National Forests.

January 8th, 2021 by Laurence Hammack

The Roanoke Times


Weakened regulations will lead to more logging in the Jefferson National Forest and other federal woodlands, conservation groups said Friday in a lawsuit that seeks to reverse the rollbacks.

The U.S. Forest Service recently finalized changes to a set of rules that provided public oversight over logging, road-building and other commercial projects in national forests.

“The changes are part of an onslaught launched by the Trump administration against the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA,” the Southern Environmental Law Center, which represents a coalition of nine organizations, said in a news release.

Nearly every logging project in the Southern Appalachian forests of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia would be aided by the new regulations, which the lawsuit claims will eliminate transparency, public input and science-based reviews.

The federal lawsuit was filed in Big Stone Gap, near the headquarters of its lead plaintiff, The Clinch Coalition.

Although focused on the forests of Southern Appalachia, the lawsuit is a nationwide challenge of all Forest Service actions under the revised NEPA. It asks a judge to vacate the rule, calling it “arbitrary, capricious and not in accordance with law.”

A Forest Service spokesman declined to comment Friday, citing the agency’s policy of not talking about pending litigation.

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