Protect NEPA: Speak Up for Your Right to Speak Up!

The Trump administration is threatening the right to speak up about government projects that affect our communities and the mountains we love in Western NC.

What’s NEPA?

The National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, is such a basic part of our lives that we usually don’t even think about it. It’s what allows citizens to have a say about the plans for government projects that will affect the places they live, and requires the government to consider the environment when making critical decisions about road building, land management, permit applications and more.

It’s NEPA that allows everyday people to comment on the Forest Service’s Nantahala-Pisgah Forests Management Plan, or to know the costs and impacts of projects like the I-26 expansion before they occur. NEPA keeps these decisions from being made in the dark, and by requiring plan alternatives, it saves tax dollars.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is proposing revisions to NEPA that will undo the core principles of the act. We have until August 20 to submit public comments to defend NEPA. 

A photo from the Cut the Clearcutting campaign by WNCA, one of the organizations that merged to become MountainTrue. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) protects the right for communities to have a say about government projects affecting their local environment, and the NEPA process later prevented the type of clearcutting shown in this photo from occurring in the Sugar House Cove and Bluff Timber Sales.

Act Now So We Can Keep Acting in the Future. Use your own words, but remind the White House Council on Environmental Quality:

  • Your voice deserves to be heard when the government makes decisions that affect your community.
  • We should know the alternatives for government projects before spending billions of taxpayer dollars.
  • Knowing how projects will affect low-income communities and communities of color helps protect people who for too long have not had meaningful protections.
  • NEPA has been critical to protecting WNC’s communities and environment for decades, including for the north shore of Fontana Lake, the Bluff Mountain, Sugar House Cove, and Upper Santeetlah Timber Sales, and the I-26 Connector Project.

When you click the button below, you will be redirected to the formal comment page for the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Then, click the “Comment Now!” button on the upper right corner of the page to leave your public comment. There are additional directions on this page that you may read if you like, but you can comment without reading them.

How Has NEPA Helped Western North Carolina? A Few Examples:

1. “The Road to Nowhere”

NEPA analysis showed that the “Road to Nowhere” along the north shore of Fontana Lake in Smoky Mountains National Park was too expensive and too destructive to build. This resulted in the preservation of the largest roadless area in the Southern Appalachians (pictured here) and a $52 million dollar settlement for Swain County to fund schools and other services.

2. The Sugar House Cove Timber Sale

The NEPA process documented a wealth of rare species at the Sugar House Cove Timber Sale in Pisgah National Forest in Big Ivy in 1994. The plans for the timber sale were changed to avoid rare species habitat.

3. The Upper Santeetlah Timber Sale

The NEPA process documented old-growth forests rivaling those at Joyce Kilmer during the Upper Santeetlah Timber Sale in 2010, allowing these trees to gain legal protection.

4. The I-26 Connector Project

NEPA allowed for consideration of additional alternatives for the I-26 Connector Project, including a community-designed alternative that ended up being chosen for the project. NEPA also provided the opportunity for community advocates and the NC Department of Transportation to work together to address concerns so that the final project will be better and cheaper.

5. Bluff Mountain Timber Sale

The NEPA process documented the potential harms of building six miles of road on Bluff Mountain, and allowed Pisgah National Forest to redesign the Bluff Timber Sale so that it would not impact water quality or the Appalachian Trail.

Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.