Wow, is all we can say! The language in this WildfireFundingFix_and_LoggingRider2015 is simply a giveaway to the federal timber sales program and logging interests nationwide. This “Clearcuts for Christmas” Logging Rider is not good for the taxpayers, it isn’t good for forest ecosystems, it won’t protect communities from future fire and it would permit the destruction of millions of acres of forest habitat nationwide without benefit of environmental analysis and impacts disclosure requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) – the Nation’s decades-old charter for environmental protection.
Further, experts are already indicating that the fire-funding language in the rider may not even “fix” the fire-borrowing issue. It would just lead to increased spending on ill-advised backcountry fire suppression.
Superficially warm and fuzzy, yet completely unenforceable, sideboards litter the language of this Rider, attempting to dupe the less informed, but don’t be taken in! When the Rider categorically excludes (CE) 3,000 acre logging projects (an area covering 5 square miles) from NEPA, it means that these projects can proceed without preparation of environmental analysis to determine whether the project may potentially have a significant effect on the environment. The sideboard which requires the establishment of a collaborative group is meaningless – these groups are dominated by Forest Service and private logging interests and they establish a voting procedure that ensures that their logging projects are implemented, even over the objections of other participants (namely the environmental organizations). Consensus is not required, which means that any concerns that might impact the board feet of timber to be extracted from the forest under the guise of restoration will be swept under the rug. While best available science must be considered, it is not required to be followed and again, will be ignored if it impacts timber targets. Because these projects have been excluded from the standard rigors of NEPA, these groups operate behind closed doors and the public barely even knows what is happening (notice is required, but that is all – comments do not need to be read, incorporated or responded to) until they drive into their national forest and see the logging.
The Rider also contains an exemption from full compliance with the Endangered Species Act (Sec. 3002) that you could drive a truck through – allowing the Department of Interior to use “whatever guidance” it wants, rather than following the best available science when making decisions related to threatened or endangered species in the context of logging under the wildly deceptive guise of “watershed protection”. As if logging in a watershed has ever done anything except damage habitat and generate chronic sedimentation for years.
Oh, and there are also unenforceable suggestions that old growth and large trees be retained in certain circumstances, but this is completely bound by subjective agency interpretation – agencies such as the Forest Service which are being funded to perform these projects and which keep the excess money generated from selling our trees to logging interests in order to enhance their budgets. The more they log, the more money they get – not an incentive for restraint. Following the Forest and Land Management Plans is also in there; unfortunately these Plans are extremely weak and have few if any enforceable provisions, and they generally allow clearcutting. Contrary to timber industry assertions that only a small portion of public forests would be affected, the logging provisions are so broad that they can be applied to all national forest lands within 100 miles of a town.
Make no mistake, this rider is about gutting environmental laws to allow a massive increase in destructive logging on federal public lands, as well as encouraging run-away spending on backcountry fire suppression, which would only harm fire-adapted forests and would do nothing to protect homes. All while us taxpayers are on the hook for the costs.
We still have time – Please make more calls today. Insist that your Senator oppose any Omnibus spending bill that contains these provisions! You can Reach your Senator Here.
Also, depending on your Party affiliation please call either the Democratic and/or Republican Leaders in the House and Senate and tell them these provisions are bad for taxpayers, bad for the environment, and are not going to fix anything!
Democrats: House: Nancy Pelosi 202-225-4965 and Senate: Harry Reid 202-456-6213
Talking points: the environmental harm from logging without environmental analysis, the fact that these provisions will not protect communities from fire, the huge increase in costs to taxpayers to suppress natural beneficial wildland fires and destroy habitat through logging.
Republicans: House: Paul Ryan 202-225-3031 and Senate: Mitch McConnell 202-224-2541
stress the enormous giveaway of federal dollars for activities with no benefit for protecting communities from fire; that the provisions are fiscally irresponsible and amount to federal welfare for executive branch agencies, the fire fighting and logging industries and that it is Un-American to negotiate these deals behind closed doors