National forests took a major hit today when the House passed a post-disturbance logging bill that bypasses most environmental protections and meaningful public involvement.
By a 243-182 vote, the House passed the Walden logging bill (HR 4200), legislation that seeks to accelerate and increase post-fire and other post-disturbance logging on national forests by attempting to give the federal government the ability to declare nearly any weather event or fire on 250 acres or more in our forests a “natural disaster” that would trigger a waiver of key environmental and public participation laws. Four amendments designed to limit the scope of the bill were defeated.
The battle now moves to the Senate, where Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) has introduced a similar bill (S 2079).
Scientific studies that have looked at post-fire logging have shown that it slows forest recovery, can harm water and soils, and can actually increase risk of future fires. In fact, the Walden logging bill was opposed by wildland firefighters who note that debris left by loggers can lead to catastrophic wildfires that threaten nearby communities and the lives of the firefighters themselves.
Yet these logging bills would fast-track logging projects by waiving environmental analysis and public involvement in decisions about individual projects. No protection would be offered for streams or riparian areas, critical wildlife habitat, old-growth forests, roadless areas, fragile soils, or other environmentally sensitive lands and resources.
The bill, promoted by its backers as an “emergency recovery” program, is a triumph of political expedience over science and the public good. Marty Hayden, Earthjustice’s Vice President of Public Policy, has called the Walden logging bill “the legislative equivalent of the Flat Earth Society.”
“More than half the House has chosen to embrace this snake oil,” Hayden added. “Let’s hope the Senate is more enlightened.”