Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 14, 2017

Contact:  Randi Spivak (310) 779-4894, rspivak@biologicaldiversity.org

Republican Bill Removes Safeguards From National Forests

Endangered Species, Streams, Public Input, Judicial Review at Risk

WASHINGTON— U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) has reintroduced legislation that would allow logging projects on up to 30,000 acres — more than 46 square miles —of public land to proceed without meaningful public input, regardless of the environmental harms they might cause. The bill would also remove protections for old-growth trees and make it easier for endangered wildlife to be harmed during logging projects.

The bill, scheduled for a hearing in the House Natural Resources Federal Lands Subcommittee on Thursday, weakens forest-management rules significantly more than the 2016 version of the bill.

“This bill is a blank check to special interests that want to increase logging regardless of the damage it does to our public lands, wildlife and watersheds,” said Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The so-called “Resilient Federal Forests Act” would eliminate Endangered Species Act requirements that the Forest Service consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure logging projects don’t jeopardize endangered wildlife or plants. The legislation more than triples the amount of acres where logging would not be subject to meaningful public participation or scientific evaluation of environmental harms. “Categorical exclusions” would allow logging operations up to 10,000 acres and, in certain cases up to 30,000 acres, with no overall limits.

“Westerman’s bill will wreak havoc on our national forests — creating flammable forest plantations and hurting streams and wildlife,” Spivak said. “Eliminating these longstanding protections that actually help forests to be resilient will lead to reckless logging, soil erosion, dirtier water and a proliferation of invasive species.”

Westerman’s legislation would also limit the ability of citizens to ensure federal agencies follow the law, with a requirement that citizens use a binding arbitration process. Since 2010 Republicans in Congress have launched repeated attacks on the ability of citizens to bring legal challenges against agency actions that harm the environment, worker protections and other safeguards.

“Anyone who has ever tried to challenge their TV cable provider or phone service understands just how infuriating binding arbitration can be. Ordinary people are almost helpless to navigate that morass,” Spivak said. “That’s what Westerman wants to force upon Americans who try to make their voices heard about how public lands are managed and to hold agencies accountable.”

In the first four months of the 115th Congress, Republicans have introduced more than 40 anti-public-lands bills that would weaken protections, turn over control of America’s public lands to states and increase extractive activities.

The vast majority of voters across political parties support protecting and maintaining forests, national parks, monuments and other public lands and waters.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

www.biologicaldiversity.org

More press releases