Helena National Forest (Montana).
Photo: USFS, flickr.
Legislation being considered in the U.S. Senate would undermine important environmental laws and increase unsustainable logging in our national forests--unless you speak out against it.
The misleadingly named Resilient Federal Forests Act, a version of which passed the House in July 2015, would weaken environmental laws and allow the timber industry to log thousands of square miles of national forest land without adequately considering the environmental effects or discussing the impact on local communities.
The bill, which was introduced in the House by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR), purports to solve a real problem: climate change-fueled wildfires and the skyrocketing cost of fighting them. The modern wildfire season is months longer than it used to be, and fires are set to burn twice as many acres as they do now by 2050. These fires consume more than half of the U.S. Forest Service budget, up from just 13 percent in 1991.
But despite rising fire costs, total funding for the Forest Service has fallen behind, forcing the agency to raid programs once available for conservation, trail maintenance and other needs (perversely, this includes programs to maintain forest health and reduce the risk of future wildfires).
Unfortunately, Rep. Westerman’s bill would not make forests “resilient” at all, and it would not meaningfully address our “fire borrowing” crisis. What it would do is freeze the public out of the land management process, eliminate environmental review of logging projects and put wildlife habitat at risk.
A better option to help our forests
We do need a plan to halt the vicious cycle that sees the government constantly scrambling to respond to wildfire, even at the risk of increasing future wildfires.
Both chambers of Congress should support the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, which would allow us to budget for wildfire suppression (fighting wildfires once they’ve started) while still paying for important conservation initiatives like wildfire mitigation (preventing catastrophic fires).
Please help us stop the Resilient Federal Forests Act in its tracks and urge Congress to consider helpful legislation like the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act instead.