A logger climbs down a mountainside while working on Admiralty Island in the Tongass National Forest. Michael Penn

National Forests, Endangered Species Under Attack as House Republicans Pass Reckless Logging Bill

In a partisan vote, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation Wednesday that would devastate national forests by gutting endangered species protections and rubber-stamping huge logging projects. The final vote was 232 to 188.

HR 2936, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), also limits public comment and environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act. Under the guise of reducing forest fires, the bill would increase unfettered logging across national forests and public lands, increase fire risk and harm forest health, while doing nothing to protect communities.

"This bill is a dangerous bait-and-switch that rewards the timber industry. It puts the health of our forests and wildlife in grave danger and ignores real solutions," said Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "It would green-light the worst forest management practices from decades ago, when reckless logging devastated wildlife, degraded rivers and ruined recreation opportunities for countless Americans."

Westerman's bill is a timber-industry wish list. Among other harmful provisions, it would allow rushed logging projects up to 30,000 acres—46 square miles—without public notice or scientific assessment of potential harm to the environment as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The bill would render forest plans meaningless, roll back measures designed to protect old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest, waive protections for waterways and water quality across the national forest system, promote harmful logging in otherwise protected roadless areas and force the Forest Service to ignore potential harm to thousands of imperiled species.

It would also give private landowners with easements on public land full ownership of that land and allow herbicides to be sprayed without reviewing the harm to water, fish and wildlife.

"The knee-jerk response from Republicans is always to gut our environmental laws, no matter what the issue is," said Spivak. "They're willing to sacrifice our wildlife, healthy streams and rivers, and vibrant public lands for private profit."

In the first four months of the 115th Congress, Republicans have introduced more than 80 bills that attack public lands, weaken environmental safeguards on those lands or turn over control to states and local governments. These attacks go against the wishes of most Americans, since the vast majority of voters across political parties support protecting and maintaining forests, national parks, monuments and other public lands and waters.

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