#LawlessLogging bill passes the House

BAD NEWS!!  Rep. Westerman’s timber-industry wish list bill, HR 2936, the "Resilient Federal Forest Act", passed the House 232 to 188 this week. Oreogn Representatives Walden (R) and Schrader (D) both voted in favor of the bill, the rest of Oregon’s representatives voted no. Under the guise of making our national forests “healthier,” H.R. 2936 would push timber production on federal lands and undermine citizens’ ability to enforce environmental laws.

"The administration wants to see it put in place, so we've got the administration helping to push it through the Senate," said Rep. Westerman.

Among other harmful provisions, it would allow rushed logging projects up to 30,000 acres — 46 square miles — without public involvement or scientific assessment of environmental impacts as required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The bill eliminates rights under the Equal Access to Justice Act for citizens to recover attorneys’ fees from the federal government when they prevail in court, further tipping the scales of justice in favor of deep-pocketed corporations. It also requires logging levels to triple on more than 2.6 million acres of publicly-owned backyard forests, a goal that cannot be met without targeting mature and old-growth forests.

This isn’t the first time the Resilient Federal Forest Act has been introduced. The bill was first brought forward in 2015, when it passed in the House but died in the Senate. This time, the number of logging acres with categorical exclusions is up to 30,000, from a previously proposed 15,000. And the first 10,000 acres of clearcutting are exempt from public consideration, up from 5,000 acres in the 2015 version.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Oregon) hailed it as a big day for the Northwest during a conference call with reporters, saying the bill not only solves the issue of “fire borrowing” but gives agencies more leeway to thin overcrowded and diseased forests.

“My intensity on this issue is almost that of the fires we fight,” said Walden. “We can reduce the size and intensity of fire up to 70 percent, if we do the kinds of projects that thin out the forests and allow us to better manage and be better stewards of our federal forests that are contemplated as a result of this legislation.”

Despite its name, this bill would actually make our forests less resilient and more prone to extreme fire by targeting Oregon’s fire-resistant old-growth.

Now that HR 2936 has passed the House, all attention shifts to the Senate where there are already efforts underway to pass similar legislation. Due to his role on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator Ron Wyden will be a crucial player in the weeks ahead as provisions from the bill passed yesterday could be woven into Senate proposals.