Worst. Logging. Bill. Ever!
Why we're worried:
- Logging up to 30,000 acres without environmental review.
- Protection for threatened species like Pacific salmon becomes optional.
- Courts aren’t allowed to stop illegal logging until forests are already cut down.
- This would happen on every National Forest in the whole country.
Read more on the "Westerman Bill"
The “Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017” (H.R. 2936) bill introduced by Rep. Westerman (R-AR), promotes irresponsible logging on a massive scale and would actually increase the risk of wildfires in across the West by prioritizing timber industry profits over our country’s national forests and other public lands.
FACT: The “Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017” (H.R. 2936) could exempt up to 30,000 acres of clear-cutting in national forests from any environmental review whatsoever. That’s a 50 square-mile cut, or an area nearly 429 times larger than the current 70-acre exemption for national forest logging projects.
Prioritizes timber industry profits and increases the risk of forest fires by gutting environmental safeguards
- This bill would actually increase the risk of large, unnatural wildfires by promoting large scale deregulated logging operations that can dry out remaining vegetation, contributing to ground fuels in the form of slash and destabilizing ecosystems.
- It also guts the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and its environmental review process. It would exempt massive logging forests for an area of up to 30,000 acres (almost 50 square miles) from environmental review or public input under NEPA. This legislative categorical exclusion is nearly 429 times larger than the current 70-acre exemption for national forest logging projects.
- H.R. 2936 would also open up millions of acres of treasured roadless areas to harmful road-building and logging and stands to threaten national monument designations under the Antiquities Act.
- By cutting out public oversight and blindfolding decisionmakers from the consequences of their actions and allowing logging companies to set forestry policy, H.R. 2936 is bad policy on many fronts. It invites harmful projects and undermines community safety and jeopardizes our forests.
- While targeted logging undertaken following completion of environmental analyses can reduce the risk of fire by thinning overgrown forests that are excessively vulnerable to fire, reckless clear-cutting, salvage operations, and other reckless logging promoted in this bill are likely to exacerbate fire’s harm. Rep. Westerman’s bill ignores scientific evidence and would produce forests with trees that are all the same age and hence the same susceptibility to fire.
Fails to fix wildfire funding
- The cost of fighting fires is consuming over half of the Forest Service’s budget, starving the agency’s ability to do preventative forest work that could impact fire behavior to the benefit of communities, wildlife, and watersheds.
- A comprehensive fix to the wildfire funding problem is supported by an incredible number and diversity of organizations. Even in the current political environment it has incredible bipartisan support, but a comprehensive fix keeps being derailed by half funding measures and efforts to tack on controversial and dangerous logging provisions like H.R. 2936.
- Secretary Perdue has said that fixing the fire funding issue is the priority, going so far as to actually say that legislating other management is not necessary.
- Instead of addressing the most critical issues facing the Forest Service – fire suppression costs that are consuming over half of the agency’s budget and the dangerous practice of “fire borrowing” that diverts funding away from already starved preventive program areas – this bill prioritizes timber industry profits under the guise of preventing forest fires.
- Rep. Westerman’s bill would leave the Forest Service spending over half of its budget (and up to two-thirds of its budget by 2021) on wildfire suppression which is unsustainable and starves all national forests of resources for basic functions.
Puts endangered species at risk
- The “Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017” also brazenly attacks the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and our nation’s most threatened wildlife. Our national forests are home to over 400 threatened or endangered species, including one-third of the nation’s listed bird species and two-thirds of our imperiled fish, but one provision completely waives compliance with the ESA by declaring all activities to be “non-discretionary.”
- Other provisions in this bill allow the Forest Service and BLM to unilaterally determine if authorized projects would adversely affect listed species or critical habitat – all without ever consulting experts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as required by the ESA.
Blocks citizen oversight and government accountability
- H.R. 2936 prevents the public from going to court to enforce environmental laws and hold the government accountable when it violates the law.
- Instead, it relegates citizen concerns to a vaguely outlined arbitration pilot program. Citizens would lose all access to the courts to ensure that the forest service is actually complying with environmental laws.
- Limiting the federal government’s ability to perform due diligence is a blatant attempt to eliminate public accountability from government decision-making in the name of corporate profits.
Not all forest management is detrimental to our forests. Indeed, responsible management can help restore forests degraded from decades of fire suppression and historical management, while producing significant social and economic benefits. Logging without laws, however, is a different story. But science tells us that large-scale logging and clear-cuts that run roughshod over environmental safeguards actually increase the risk of fire.
H.R. 2936 guts environmental safeguards, excludes the public from participation in decision-making, and blocks legal review of projects, undermining legitimate science-based collaborative forest restoration activities that balance the interests of loggers, local communities, and conservation organizations. Everyone should reject this legislation.