Thompson Asks Forest Service that ANF Meetings be Public

December 3, 2009
Press Release

Washington, D.C.—U.S. Representative Glenn `GT’ Thompson, R-Howard, today sent a letter to the Allegheny National Forest Supervisor Leanne Marten asking that all meetings on the Transition Environmental Impact Statement (TEIS) be open to the public.

The U.S. Forest Service has expressed their willingness to meet and discuss the TEIS with members of the public in private.  There are three alternatives being considered by the Forest Service in the scoping process for oil and gas drilling on the Allegheny National Forest.  The Forest Service  staff announced they would hold individual meetings from Dec. 14th to the 17th for anyone interested in discussing the preliminary alternatives.

“Because the ANF plays such a pivotal role in Northwest Pennsylvania, I must ask that the Forest Service not abandon its policy of open, public meetings at this critical juncture and I make this request for several reasons,” wrote Thompson.

“The first is that while one-on-one meetings may be effective in communicating the Forest Service positions, it deprives the rest of the public the opportunity to hear your responses, along with the opportunity to learn the feelings and opinions of their fellow citizens.  In this instance, public meetings are not simply about communicating data; they are also critical for giving people the opportunity to feel that their concerns are being heard, and that not only the Forest Service but the entire community has an opportunity to listen.”

“Second, the access of the media to public meetings is a critical and essential part of our history and its importance should not be underestimated,” Thompson wrote.
He also cited concerns from constituents who would like the policy of open meetings to continue, and concerns that public perception of additional changes in policy regarding the ANF without public meetings would be a negative one.

“As you well know, a growing number of the ANF community are already questioning U.S. Forest Service priorities and policy changes and feel that the Federal Government has breached its eight-decade-old agreement regarding timber harvesting and access to privately owned oil and gas resources.  The lack of public meetings will only fuel these suspicions and I feel it is important that we do everything in our power, as government officials, to see that people have a transparent government with no hint of exclusivity or the blessing of predetermined policy decisions,” Thompson concluded.