In the midst of all the turmoil in Washington, D.C., one recent move by President Donald Trump has slipped largely under the radar. Just before the Christmas holiday and on the eve of the government shutdown, Trump signed an executive order to increase timber production on our public lands under the guise of “active management” to “reduce wildfire risks.”
The executive order significantly increases pressure on our National Forests for large-scale logging and clear cuts by imposing more than a 30 percent increase (from 2.9 to 3.8 billion board feet) in timber production on Forest Service land, and additional 600 million broad feet cut on land managed by the Department of Interior.
This increase would not be spread evenly over the National Forest System, but would instead disproportionately affect “timber basket” forests, many of which are found on the productive lands of the Southeast.
Just as concerning, the executive order also directs management agencies to “streamline” the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act which will allow different public land agencies to push through timber projects without much analysis of how it might destroy the natural environment or engaging the public for input. Again, this affects the Southeast disproportionately: our forests are more biodiverse, more popular for recreation, and more important for water quality than any other forests in the country.