Policy Update Oct 31, 2017

Position on H.R. 2936, Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017

NPCA, along with partners, submitted the following position to the House of Representatives ahead of an expected floor vote the week of October 30, 2017.

On behalf of our millions of our members and supporters, we urge you to OPPOSE the Resilient Federal Forest Act of 2017 (H.R. 2936). This bill is extreme and unfortunately, instead of protecting and restoring our public forests, H.R. 2936 puts our forests, communities and wildlife at risk. The provisions offered in response to the wildfire funding crisis, even in this most recent version of the bill, are completely inadequate, leaving unaddressed the largest part of the problem: the growing impact of wildfire suppression on the Forest Service’s annual budget. Further, this bill:

THREATENS COMMUNITIES AND WILDLIFE. The bill promotes irresponsible logging on a massive scale. Science shows that such large-scale logging and roadbuilding without environmental safeguards can increase the risk of uncharacteristic wildfires while also causing erosion, water contamination from herbicide use and runoff; fragmentation of pristine areas; and clear-cuts of old growth destroying habitat for sensitive and commercially important fish and wildlife from elk to salmon. It threatens communities, recreational businesses and wildlife in the process.

PUTS ENDANGERED SPECIES AT RISK. Our national forests are home to over 400 threatened or endangered species, including one third of the nation’s listed bird species and two thirds of our imperiled fish. Yet this bill completely eliminates consultation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and compromises protection for some of America’s most iconic wildlife like the Florida panther, native wild trout and black footed ferret. This attack on the ESA is extreme and unwarranted.

EXEMPTS MASSIVE LOGGING PROJECTS FROM SAFEGUARDS. One of the bill’s many waivers would allow timber projects to log as much as 47 square miles of national forest without reviewing the potential harmful impacts on the environment, or notifying the public of those impacts as would currently occur under the National Environmental Policy Act.

REVOKES MONUMENT PROTECTION AND PUTS PROTECTED WILDLANDS ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK. The bill promotes harmful logging in otherwise protected roadless areas and wilderness study areas. It revokes protection for a national monument in Oregon and allows the Forest Service to waive stream buffer protections critical to safeguarding waterways and water quality across the National Forest System.

BLOCKS CITIZEN OVERSIGHT AND ACCOUNTABILITY. H.R. 2936 prevents the public from going to court to enforce environmental laws and hold the government accountable when it violates the law.

FAILS TO FIX WILDFIRE FUNDING. The cost of fighting fires is consuming over half of the Forest Service’s budget, starving the agency’s ability to do preventative forest work that could impact fire behavior to the benefit of communities, wildlife and watersheds. The wildfire funding language presented in this bill will not effectively fix the problem. It would leave the Forest Service spending over half of its budget (and up to two thirds of its budget by 2021) on wildfire suppression which is unsustainable and starves all national forests of resources for basic functions.

Not all forest management is detrimental to our forests. Indeed, responsible management can help restore forests degraded from decades of fire suppression and historical management, while producing significant social and economic benefits. Logging without laws, however, is a different story. H.R. 2936 guts environmental safeguards, excludes the public from participation in decision-making and blocks legal review of projects, undermining legitimate science-based collaborative forest restoration activities that balance the interests of loggers, local communities and conservation organizations. Everyone, including those who support responsible management of federal forests, should reject this legislation.