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The Trump administration has released its plan to make it easier for companies to drill for oil and gas on U.S. Forest Service lands.

The proposed rule would cut the public out of the process that decides whether and which lands will be opened to oil and gas drilling. It would also give excessive leeway to companies that don’t follow US Forest Service (USFS) laws and weaken that agency’s ability to protect public land from development and degradation.

“This misguided rule is an affront to hunters and anglers, as well as the world class outdoor recreation values we share in Montana,” said Frank Szollosi, executive director for the Montana Wildlife Federation. “While we should be working to improve our National Forests for fish and wildlife, the Trump Administration continues to prioritize special interests, wants to reduce public participation in the leasing process and open more precious public land to oil and gas development.”

The proposed rule contains several provisions that would affect public participation including removing the requirement that a Forest Service give public notice of the decision to approve a Surface Use Plan of Operations, the specific plan for development. It would also allow the Forest Service to skip important and necessary environmental reviews for leasing decisions.

Additionally, the rule would remove environmental considerations as criteria for decisions to approve plans and limit the Forest Service to only protect specific, named natural resources, and ignore opportunities to address climate change or protect vital wild places.

“Montanans understand the value of our public lands and the economic benefits they bring our local economy through outdoor recreation,” said Tom Puchlerz, president of the MWF. “Reducing the public’s opportunity to weigh in on decisions affecting our National Forests will reduce transparency and lead to further degradation of our highly valued landscapes.”

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