27 July 2011 Your Lands on the Line: Congress to Cut Public Participation Out of Public Lands Decisions Posted by: Peter Nelson | 1 comment Grizzly bears are just one species that could be impacted by the so-called riders. The vitality of America’s wild landscapes, such as those found in the majestic 20-million-acre Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, depends on budgets passed by Congress. But the U.S. House of Representatives’ funding proposal contains dozens of non-spending related, anti-environmental policy provisions that could bankrupt citizens of their right to weigh in on decisions that affect public lands and wildlife. Two of these so-called “riders” aim to make it difficult for concerned citizens and member-based conservation groups, like Defenders, to be involved in critical public lands decisions that affect wildlife and wild lands. These riders would severely limit the public’s ability to have a say on how national forest lands, which belong to the American people, are managed. One provision (in section 118) impacts Bureau of Land Management lands — some 253 million acres throughout the West, including millions in the Greater Yellowstone area such as the Bighorn Basin. It would require the public to engage in time consuming bureaucratic reviews before having the opportunity to get a fair court hearing on environmentally damaging actions. Public lands offer world-class mountain biking. The legislation would let the BLM move forward with harmful oil and gas drilling in places such as the Bighorn Basin without the benefit of reasonable pubic and judicial oversight. The other (in section 437) targets the National Forest System — 193 million acres in 155 forests across the country, including seven national forests within the Greater Yellowstone region. This provision would block the public from legally challenging potentially harmful Forest Service activities such as logging and road-building. And instead of having 45 days to object to a final decision on a harmful project, the public would be forced to protest prior to a final decision. But even then the agency would have the power to ignore public concerns and exempt some projects from any appeal. These riders would severely limit the public’s ability to have a say on how national forest lands, which belong to the American people, are managed. In a Democracy, it is critical that the public be allowed to participate in decision-making regarding the future of public lands. Do these proposals blocking the people from having a say in the management of their own public lands sound American to you? Contact your Representative today and tell them to put people ahead of special interests — vote against this bad bill! Peter Nelson, Senior Policy Advisor, Federal Lands Peter leads Defenders' efforts to protect wildlife habitat and biodiversity on federal public lands, working to bolster and defend the National Wildlife Refuge System as a premier set of lands for wildlife conservation, and to increase wildlife protections on USDA Forest Service national forests and grasslands, and Bureau of Land Management lands.