Today the Bush administration sent to Congress a bill that proposes suspending environmental checks and balances in order to open the American public lands to more logging. The proposal follows the president's recent announcement in Oregon regarding wildfires. The proposal does far more to promote logging without environmental safeguards that protect public forests than it does to reduce the risk of wildfire.
"This proposal will do little to protect communities from fire. Instead it opens the back country to logging where the big profitable timber is," said Marty Hayden of Earthjustice. "It allows the timber industry to log 10 million acres of our national forest while attempting to wipe out the very environmental law that requires government agencies to look before they leap. It is a license to steal for the timber industry."
The bill seeks to:
- Wipe out the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 for logging projects and other projects conducted under this plan. NEPA basically says the government must look before it leaps when taking an action that will disturb the environment. This proposal attempts to say, when it comes to logging our public forests, timber companies are free to cut before anyone has to consider the impacts the cutting will have on the forest, rivers, soils etc.
- Wipe out the public's right to appeal timber sales or other projects planned under this bill, even ones planned next to their homes.
- Exempt hastily planned or damaging timber sales from temporary restraining orders or preliminary injunctions. In other words, even if the court agrees a logging project is illegal and would harm the public, the court's most important authority to stop the project and keep the trees standing while it decides the case is taken away by this law.
- Allow the government to trade away the largest and most fire resistant trees on our public forest for less than they're worth, even when cutting them is completely unrelated to fire prevention, to achieve any "land management goal."
- Require courts to defer to the judgment of government agencies even when timber sales they are planning are found to be in violation of laws such as the Endangered Species Act or Clean Water Act.
"The American people appreciate our hard won environmental protections. This proposal would throw those protections out the window and hand our public forests over to people who have shown over the years that they are only interested in logging the forests." said Earthjustice attorney Tom Waldo.
Senator Larry Craig, R-Idaho, is expected to offer an amendment to the interior appropriations bill on the floor of the Senate next week that will likely mirror the White House proposal.