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The AAC sues the Council on Environmental Quality to Keep the “Public” in Public Lands

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On July 30, the American Alpine Club joined forces with Winter Wildlands Alliance and 20 other conservation and environmental justice organizations to sue the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and stop its evisceration of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

For the past 50 years, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) has ensured that climbers and skiers have a voice in how the federal government managers our public lands. Whether considering issues like climbing regulations in forest planning, balancing recreation with cultural preservation in national monuments, or accounting for impacts to the climate from energy development on public lands—NEPA ensures that the federal government incorporates science and public opinion in the decision-making process. NEPA assures that the federal government operates with transparency and is held accountable for the decisions made on public lands. Having transparent decision making and accountability is particularly important to the climbing community as many of our cherished climbing areas are located on federal public lands across the country.

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“Mountain regions are warming at roughly twice the pace of the global average, and climbers and skiers are experiencing these changes every time we go into the mountains. Now, the administration has decided that federal agencies no longer need to consider how their decisions will affect the climate. We’re suing the administration to force the government to continue accounting for climate impacts before approving development projects.” says Taylor Luneau, Policy Manager at the American Alpine Club. Luneau wrote about the changes to NEPA in detail in the AAC’s Summit Register: The Policy Zine for Climbers.

The policy changes announced by President Trump on July 15, 2020, mark a significant departure from how the government has previously interpreted NEPA. The new regulations limit public participation, restrict the scope of environmental analyses, and intend to fast-track approval for development and infrastructure projects. These policy changes raise significant concerns not only for the protection of public lands and outdoor recreation, but for the health and well-being of communities across the country who rely on clean air, water, and a healthy climate.

“The National Environmental Policy Act gives every American a voice in how public lands are managed. If you’ve ever sent a letter to the Forest Service, Park Service, or Bureau of Land Management, weighing in on a project, you were able to do so because of NEPA,” says Hilary Eisen, Policy Director at Winter Wildlands Alliance. “These policy changes dramatically re-interpret the law to sideline the public and prioritize corporate interests over environmental protection,” Eisen added.

To learn more, join Taylor Luneau and Hilary Eisen, along with Susan Jane Brown, staff attorney at Western Environmental Law Center, for a webinar at 6 p.m. MDT on August 11.

Register online at:

To learn more about the importance of NEPA for climbers, read the AAC’s latest blog post and check out their newest publication Summit Register.

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