The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that proponents say will improve forest health and wildfire response, and opponents describe as sponsoring “logging without laws.”
Call the “Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017,” the measure (H.R. 2936) was passed by the House on Nov. 1 by a largely partisan vote, with only 10 Democrats joining 222 Republicans in support of the bill.
Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, a co-sponsor of the bill, said it “provides federal land management agencies immediate tools to increase the pace and scale of forest management projects, dramatically improving the health and resiliency of our national forests.”
Newhouse said the bill “tackles the issue of fire borrowing,” a practice in which the U.S. Forest Service uses money intended for other programs such as wildfire prevention to pay the costs of fighting wildfires on federal lands.
A letter to Congress signed by 71 conservation organizations urged Congress to oppose the bill, arguing that it promotes irresponsible logging on a massive scale; puts endangered species at risk; exempts large logging projects from environmental review; allows logging in roadless and wilderness study areas; prevents the public from going to court to enforce environmental laws; and fails to fix the problem of wildfire funding.
The letter was signed by local and regional organizations including the Center for Biodiversity, Conservation Northwest, Washington Wild and Cascadia Wildlands, as well as national conservation groups such as the Sierra Club, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council and Trout Unlimited.
The measure has been sent on to the Senate and referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.