Legislation Proposed to Rein in Forest Service

Published June 1, 1999

Representative Helen Chenoweth (R-Idaho) has introduced the “Forest Roads Community Right-to-Know Act” to ensure local public participation in any decisions of the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management to permanently close a forest road.

The bill would require the Secretary of the Interior, who is responsible for the Bureau of Land Management, and the Secretary of Agriculture, under whom the Forest Service operates, to meet at least annually with appropriate county and municipal officials to describe all plans and proposals that may result in the permanent closure of any forest roads on federal lands.

Federal officials also would be required to place legal notices of such proposals in local papers of record for the affected communities. The notices must contain a description and map of the road to be closed and allow a 90-day period for public comment. Permanent closure of any road without following proper procedure would be prohibited.

As a practical matter, the 90-day public comment period is likely to make impossible the wholesale closing of roads in National Forests.