Posted on by West Coast Action Alliance
December 22, 2015 – Forest Service slips schedule again: A conversation with the Forest Service’s point of contact for the establishment of an Electronic Warfare Range on the Olympic Peninsula revealed that the schedule has now “slipped to early February” for the release of a new EA (Environmental Assessment) by the Forest Service, that will closely mirror the Navy’s EA of August 2014. This EA and its “draft final decision” will trigger an objection/comment period of up to 45 days in which the FS will take comments. The only comments they’ll consider are those from people who commented on this before, on issues previously raised, so feel free to read and use material from comment letters collected here.
Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, a sportsman’s paradise, is under threat of becoming an Electronic Warfare Range and a military playground.
When that comment period finally opens, do not let this limitation stop you from commenting. The lame public process of last year demands a vigorous response from the public this time around. Following that, the FS will have up to 45 days to consider and respond to public comments, and another 30 days if they want it. The reviewing officer will be Olympic National Forest’s Supervisor, Reta Laford, but she won’t sign the decision. The last step will be the signing of a Finding of No Significant Impact, by District Ranger Dean Millett.
Remember, the Navy justified its Finding of No Significant Impact by retrofitting an old Biological Opinion from 2010 to its EA. That document, which did not cover activities on the Olympic Peninsula, has expired, and the Forest Service, which did no independent investigation to validate the Navy’s 2014 finding, will have to show how it now comes to the same conclusion the Navy did. The only way it could do this is to exclude many concerns raised by the public from consideration. The Forest Service is prohibited by law from allowing another agency to speak for it on matters of impacts to the resources it manages. Furthermore, it is illegal to “segment” these public processes for the purpose of preventing a holistic evaluation of all impacts. Remember that the Navy’s EA did not allow the public to evaluate the impacts from Navy jets overhead, impacts that will be triggered by issuance of the permits to drive mobile emitters on national forest roads. That EA covered only impacts from the emitter vehicles, such as generator noise, and dismissed all concerns about jet noise, pollution, and electromagnetic radiation. We will all need to be aware of what’s in the Forest Service’s new EA.
The US Forest Service also holds the national record for the number of NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) lawsuits: As we wait for an onslaught of events to happen in the next few weeks, namely:
- The Fish and Wildlife Service’s Biological Opinion, which is a 200-page report on the endangered species consultation with the Navy for its latest EIS on Northwest Training and Testing;
- The Navy’s final Record of Decision for Northwest Training and Testing (despite no public comment period) and increased sonar and explosive activities in our waters;
- The Forest Service’s issuance of a draft Record of Decision (with comment period) on the Navy’s use of national forest roads for Electronic Warfare;
- The Navy’s continued stealth use of public roads on the Olympic Peninsula (outside national forest boundaries) for electronic warfare training;
- The Navy’s current comment period to end, on its proposal to build its “forward staging area” for submarines and escort vessels at Port Angeles, which happens to be the second EA on the same project in one year (first EA, January 2015);
- More news from the Army’s planned combat helicopter training in the Cascades and Southwest Washington, its plans to fire rockets into South Puget Sound, and the Air Force’s plans for training in the Olympic National Forest right at the boundaries of Olympic National Park.
In 2013, the Forest Service had 28 of 96 NEPA lawsuits spread across 36 federal agencies, or 29% of the total. Are they doing a good job with NEPA? You be the judge. Here are the statistics for the last 13 years, from the NEPA.gov web site, which tracks litigation across all federal agencies:
2012: 25 of 88 NEPA lawsuits, or 28%.
2011: 25 of 94, or 27%.
2010: 18 of 87, or 20%
2009: 43 of 97, or 44%
2008: 46 of 132, or 35%
2007: 40 of 86, or 47%
2006: 30 of 108, or 28%
2005: 50 of 118, or 43%
2004: 76 of 167, or 46%
2003: 66 of 140,or 47%
2002: 40 of 148, or 27%
2001: 40 of 136, or 29%.
California Red-legged frog, a rare species found on the Olympic Peninsula. It is federally listed as threatened throughout its range in California. It became famous for being the frog featured in Mark Twain’s short story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”
The Forest Service undoubtedly knows that its shameful record is not likely to be broken any time soon, because it looks like they’re going to give the Navy a permit to conduct Electronic Warfare, despite massive public opposition, no research of their own to back up the Navy’s claims, and multiple misleading claims made in public meetings.
Few would disagree with the idea that it’s not unpatriotic to ask our own government to follow its own laws. The Forest Service must not be bullied by the Navy into violating the law. And don’t forget that America’s armed services are still legally under civilian control. Let’s keep reminding them of that, too.