Thursday, March 16, 2017

Misuse of "Categorically Excluded Projects" Authority

In 2014, under the Farm Bill, Congress gave the Forest Service what it is now using for unchecked power and authority.

It gave the Forest Service the use of "Categorically Excluded Projects". Projects that the Forest Service gets to determine if and when they are needed. Power to bulldoze over the top of local communities without at least first soliciting input from the affected public.

Power and authority the Payette National Forest has wasted no time in abusing and misusing.

 Forest Service unilaterally closed Sugar Creek Road with zero public input, a violation of NEPA and public scoping provisions outlined in the 36 CFR.

 Forest Service misuses "categorically excluded projects" provisions of FSH 1909.15.

In 1998, Sugar Creek Road was listed on the Payette National Forest Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVU) as "open to all vehicles,  4x4 recommended".

Between 1998 and 2008, and during the Big Creek and Yellow Pine Travel Plan, the Forest Service unilaterally declared Sugar Creek Road an "unauthorized route".

This violates provisions of NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) and authority given to the Forest Service by Congress as outlined in the 36 CFR  (Code of Federal Regulations).

The Forest Service has been made aware of the fact that they closed Sugar Creek Road in violation of Federal laws in that they did not, and refuse to hold proper public comment periods and consulting with affected state, county and local governments in addition to affected indian tribes and the affected public (Yellow Pine) as required under the socioeconomic provisions of NEPA.

Moreover, the Forest Service did knowingly and willfully use incorrect socioeconomic  data during scoping for the 2008 Big Creek and Yellow Pine Travel Plan which states there to be "one job" in the greater Yellow Pine area.

In fact, there are 16 businesses in the Yellow Pine community directly negatively affected by the Payette National Forest's unilateral decision to close Sugar Creek Road. 

Therefore,  Sugar Creek Road is not eligible for "categorically excluded projects" since it was never lawfully taken out of the public domain by the Forest Service through any lawful channels. 

Anthony Botello and Keith Lannom have abused their power and authority by closing Sugar Creek Road to the public, and unlawfully denying a private landowner the use of his land via a roadway Valley County has declared an RS-2477 roadway. 

The section of the Forest Service Handbook states:
"Cite this category  as 36  CFR  220.6(e)(19) (20)  Activities that restore, rehabilitate, or stabilize  lands occupied by  roads and trails, excluding National Forest System  roads and National Forest System  trails to a  more natural condition  that  may include  removing, replacing, or  modifying drainage structures and ditches, reestablishing vegetation,  reshaping natural contours and slopes, reestablishing drainage-ways, or other activities that would restore  site productivity  and reduce  environmental  impacts.   

"Examples include  but are  not limited to: (i)    Decommissioning a road that is no  longer a National Forest  System"(Sugar Creek Road was not removed from public use through any legal process)

  road to a more natural state by  restoring  natural contours  and removing construction  fills, loosening compacted soils, revegetating the  roadbed and removing ditches and culverts  to reestablish  natural drainage  patterns (ii)    Restoring an  unauthorized trail to a  natural  state  by  reestablishing natural drainage  patterns, stabilizing slopes, reestablishing vegetation, and installing water bars; and (iii)    Installing boulders,  logs,  and berms on  an  unauthorized road segment to promote naturally regenerated grass, shrub, and  tree  growth."

Sugar Creek Road does not fall into the "categorically excluded projects" clause.....because the Payette National Forest unilaterally declared it removed from the public domain....authority Congress never gave or intended the Payette National Forest to have.

Therefore, the Payette National Forest should cease and desist from further destruction of the Sugar Creek Road, including unlawful barriers and barricades and signs it has placed to impede public entry and travel. And further desist from harassing, blocking, impeding, slowing or otherwise altering public access to the entirety of Sugar Creek Road. 

Scott Amos

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