Devastating Federal Forest Bill Would Clear Cut National Forests and Silence Our Dissent
Earthjustice is working to defeat a bill recently introduced in Congress called the “Resilient Forest Act of 2017” (H.R. 2936). Far from a forest protection act, the proposed law is a gift to the timber industry.
Congress is trying to swiftly move this bill forward—it already passed the House Natural Resources Committee and will soon be headed to the House floor for a vote.
Under the guise of making our national forests “healthier,” H.R. 2936 would push timber production on federal lands and undermine citizens’ ability to enforce environmental laws.
Nearly every line of this extensive bill is problematic. Here are just some of the most nefarious aspects of the proposed law:
- It severely undermines the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by exempting several harmful activities from environmental review and public comment. Those activities include forest clearings for timber production on areas up to 30,000 acres. That’s an area almost 429 times larger than what’s currently allowed to take place without review.
- It eliminates rights under the Equal Access to Justice Act for citizens to recover attorneys’ fees from the federal government when they prevail in court, further tipping the scales of justice in favor of deep-pocketed corporations.
- It forces citizens who want to challenge certain forest management projects into an industry-biased “binding” agency arbitration process that completely eliminates the possibility of judicial review in federal courts.
- It allows for millions of acres of protected roadless areas to be open to harmful road building and logging.
- It reallocates funds away from environmental restoration to timber production.
- It attacks the Endangered Species Act (ESA), including allowing the Forest Service to avoid consulting with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service experts when it self-determines that an activity is not likely to adversely affect listed species or critical habitat.
- It puts iconic national monuments at risk. A section of the bill takes aim at protected areas in western Oregon, but the language is drafted so broadly that the damage could actually extend to numerous public lands in order to shift management toward dominant timber use.
In short, this bill is downright manipulative and destructive.
While this bill purports to address wildfires, the many destructive actions it promotes also include massive post-fire logging operations which destroy ecosystems and actually increase the risk of fire.
The most important step Congress can take to assist healthy forest restoration is to support a more comprehensive, long-term wildfire funding fix.
The argument for protecting our national forests
National forests are our treasures. Many of us feel a sense of awe when we visit these special public lands, and if we are fortunate, the remaining patches of old-growth.
Our forests provide a range of benefits, including clean air and water, outstanding recreational opportunities, biodiversity, fish and wildlife habitat, erosion control, soil renewal and more.
Some 180 million people in over 68,000 communities rely on our national forests to capture and filter their drinking water. An estimated 160 million people visit national forests annually for recreational activities, including camping, fishing and hunting. These activities equate to an estimated recreation contribution of approximately $9.5 billion and 143,000 jobs to local economies in recent years.
National forests also harbor an astounding number of rare and imperiled fish, wildlife and plants. Over 100 endangered and threatened animals that are protected under the ESA depend on national forests for their recovery, including nearly 40 percent of the ESA-listed iconic animals such as the Canada lynx, jaguars, Florida panthers and grizzly bears.
Bottom line: Don’t let Congress sell out our national forests, our bedrock environmental laws, and our democratic principles. Please urge your Congress members to vote NO on H.R. 2936.
ABOUT THIS SERIES
The 45th U.S. president, Donald J. Trump, is bent on gutting environmental protections, and—with a polluter-friendly Congress at his side—he’ll likely do everything he can to dismantle our fundamental right to a healthy environment. The Capitol Watch blog series will shine a light on these political attacks from Congress and the Trump administration, as well as the work of Earthjustice and our allies to hold them accountable.