House Republicans have introduced two bills aimed at dismantling a decade of environmental protections that have kept some of America’s cleanest water pure and finest forests standing.
HR 1581 calls for the reversal of the 2001 Roadless Rule, a rule that protects our nation’s wildest forests, opening up approximately 49 million acres of national forest lands to logging, oil and gas development, road building and mining. The bill would also rescind Interior Secretarial Order 3310 issued by Secretary Ken Salazar in December 2010 that orders federal land managers to identify and protect wilderness quality.
The sweeping bill was prepared by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), and Western Caucus Chairman Steve Pearce (R-New Mexico) with 23 Republicans cosponsoring it.
“The pristine forest lands threatened by these bills provide a last refuge for many of our nation's beloved wildlife species in an era when many of America’s wild animals are facing shrinking habitat,” Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso said. “This bill threatens to kill off wide-ranging species that just cannot survive in the developed landscape. We are talking about grizzly bears, wolves, elk, and bighorn sheep. The bill would also remove protections for some of our last, best fisheries, including blue-ribbon trout streams and some of the last available spawning habitat for imperiled wild salmon.”
Another measure introduced in the House, HR 1202, would permit "timber activity" on every acre of every national forest "notwithstanding any other law." This bill would apparently permit commercial logging even in designated wilderness, even if it destroyed municipal watersheds, even if it eliminated all deer and elk habitat on forests, and even if it cut down every bald eagle nest in the national forest system. This measure was sponsored by eight Republican House members.
“Teddy Roosevelt championed the 190-million acre national forest system so that Americans would always have clean water to drink, wildlife to hunt and fish, and wild places to test oneself,” said Earthjustice attorney Ted Zukoski. “These values are even more important now than they were in the early 1900s. The bills introduced in Congress this year would turn back the clock, taking us back to the ‘anything goes’ days of the 19th Century when indiscriminate logging was destroying our watersheds, exterminating our wildlife, and developing the country's last wild places.”
Earthjustice has worked for decades in the courts to preserve these ecologically important and diverse lands. Legal work continues on several unresolved cases regarding roadless areas of America’s national forests, as well as protection for wild deserts, red-rock canyons, and other undeveloped public lands. Protecting America’s natural areas targeted by the House bill will now likely fall to the U.S. Senate.
“These House Republicans apparently won’t be content until every acre is logged and paved,” said Earthjustice attorney Kristen Boyles, who noted that millions of Americans have consistently voiced support for protecting these public lands. “Shame on them for trying to undo the will of the people.”