Logging Southern forests won’t fight wildfires in the West

National forests in the Southern Appalachian mountains attract over 11 million visitors annually to fish, hunt, camp, and hike. In our region alone, these forests are major drivers in a nearly $90 billion outdoor recreation economy and their streams contribute to drinking water for about 11 million people. (© Bill Lea)

As Congress prepares to wrap up its business for 2016, supporters of legislation to expedite logging on national forests, including dropping protections for thousands of acres of Southeastern forests, hope to slip their dangerous bill into unrelated budget provisions.

These proposals to expedite logging by eliminating certain key protections for the land, clean water, fish, and wildlife of national forests have been tied in to a much-needed, long-overdue Congressional effort to stabilize and expand the funds available to the U.S. Forest Service for wildfire suppression. Necessary wildfire funding fixes should not be held hostage to efforts to increase logging in our Southeastern forests.

“As national forests and other public lands in the dry West face rising wildfire fighting costs, there’s a clear need to fix the current funding situation. Yet tacking on unrelated actions to remove protections for national forest lands, including our precious national forests in the Southern Appalachian mountains, goes a step too far,” said Sarah Francisco, leader of SELC’s National Forests and Parks Program. 

SELC and local groups around the region are pressing legislators to focus any wildfire bill solely on securing funding for wildfire suppression, not also removing environmental protections. There is no reason to attach controversial efforts to expedite logging to the important efforts underway to stabilize the Forest Service’s wildfire suppression funding.

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