U.S. House passes bill proposing to treat Southeastern National Forests as crops

Late Wednesday, the House voted on and passed the so-called “Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017” (H.R. 2936). The legislation proposes to create massive categorical exclusions (CEs) to allow tens of thousands of acres—15 to 45 square miles—of logging to bypass any public participation or consideration of impacts to other resources and values.

“Logging at this scale would be harmful in larger National Forests out west, but it would have even greater disproportionate impacts on our relatively small Southeastern National Forests,” said attorney Sam Evans, leader of SELC’s National Forests and Parks Program. “Limiting public participation as logging projects are planned and sites for logging are selected would put our Southeastern National Forests in harm’s way.

“These special public lands are beloved by many and include a range of other uses and values—clean water, recreation, scenery, tourism. We cannot afford to treat our Southeastern National Forests as mere crops for timber without disrupting those other values. Congress should be investing resources in the Forest Service so that it can do better work rather than telling land managers to cut corners.”

Along with more than 70 other organizations, SELC signed onto a letter in opposition to the bill sponsored by Representative Bruce Westerman. Although the Westerman bill has been touted as a solution to prevent and control Western wildfires, most of its provisions have nothing to do with fire, and the bill fails to provide a complete solution to funding shortfalls that plague the Forest Service during fire season.

The Westerman bill also proposes shutting out the general public from weighing in on logging projects, eliminating the requirement to consider alternatives that could meet project goals with fewer impacts to our National Forests.

The bill now moves to Senate committees for consideration.

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