Bad bills would increase national forest logging, destroy critical wildlife habitat

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (Washington).

Credit: Sean Munson, flickr.

New bills would circumvent bedrock environmental laws and drastically increase the amount of logging in our national forests.

In another attack on conservation, members of Congress are pushing two bills that would increase logging in national forests, ultimately removing habitat that is essential for recovery after a wildfire.  

Learn more: Congress' attack on our public lands

On June 3, a draft of the deceptively titled “National Forest Management Improvement Act” received a subcommittee hearing in the House. Introduced by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), who is chairman of the reviewing subcommittee, the bill would create loopholes in the 45-year-old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for practices including so-called “salvage logging,” which removes burned trees that serve an important role in a forest's natural cycle of recovery following a fire. If it became law, loopholes in NEPA would massively increase the size of salvage logging projects permitted across the country.

Scientists say that burned trees left in the wake of fires serve an important role in western forests, spurring improved biodiversity and supporting life ranging from shrubs to bears. In fact, removing these trees could actually exacerbate fire damage and increase future risk.

A "salvage logging" operation in Sequoia National Forest (California) following the McNally Fire of 2002. Credit: Roger Bales, flickr.

This isn’t the first terrible forest bill to come down the pike in 2015. Recently, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) introduced legislation that would similarly undermine existing forest management practices and carve gaping loopholes in environmental laws. The “FORESTS Act of 2015” would require the Forest Service to establish areas encompassing tens of millions of acres where a high amount of clear-cut logging is required each year. A comparable bill passed the House in 2013 but was threatened with veto by President Barack Obama.

"Our national forests are treasures that belong to all of us ... These bills would undermine values and benefits that all Americans enjoy."

For the past decade, The Wilderness Society has worked closely with rural communities and responsible timber industry leaders to promote landscape-scale conservation projects that protect rural communities from forest fires, restore fish and wildlife habitat, and promote new wilderness designations. Unfortunately, the current Congress is ignoring these efforts, pushing destructive legislation that claims to address wildfire and other forest management concerns but would actually lead to indiscriminate logging without environmental review on our national forests.

“Our national forests are treasures that belong to all of us. They provide everything from clean air and water to outstanding recreational opportunities to fish and wildlife habitat,” said Montana-based Scott Brennan, acting director of national forest landscape conservation for The Wilderness Society. “More than 165 million people recreate on our national forests annually, generating about $13 billion in economic activity and supporting more than 190,000  jobs in nearby communities. These bills would undermine values and benefits that all Americans enjoy.”