Almost anytime there’s a chance for you to weigh in with land managers about an important decision—from trying to fight off mining in the headwaters of the Boundary Waters to the creation of a new management plan for your local National Forest—that opportunity exists because of a law called the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. Right now, the Forest Service is proposing big changes to the way it implements the law that could drastically roll back your say in how public lands are managed.
At its core, NEPA does two main things. First, it requires that major federal actions are analyzed for their effects on the environment and on recreation—basically just requiring informed decision making. Second, NEPA ensures that the American people get to have a say in those decisions—public participation. NEPA is arguably the most important law for environmental quality and public lands management in the U.S. since it requires that we measure the impact of big changes to public lands – like building a new mine or enlarging a parking lot – and study the potential impacts on air and water quality, recreation access, potential pollution, and more.