"The Forest Service would be allowed to forgo environmental reviews for forest thinning projects smaller than 10,000 acres under a provision in the House farm bill."
"Supporters have pitched the measure to get faster action as beetles ravage forests in the West. They say National Environmental Policy Act reviews can tie beetle mitigation projects up for months or even years.
"Categorical exclusions are typically used as an emergency, rapid response for areas needing immediate attention due to the threat of wildfire or spread of pine beetles to nearby areas," Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), who championed the provision last year in the farm bill debate, said through a spokeswoman. "As we watch the beetle devastate our forests, we need to do all we can to eliminate red tape and get ahead of the beetle.""