Westerman Bill Action Alert

Action Alert! Raise your voice to defend public forests and stop congress from gutting protections!

Action is urgently needed to stop congress from gutting protections for public forests. Raise your voice NOW to defend forests—please call or write your Congressional Representatives and Senators and let them know that you are opposed to this bill!

The “Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017” threatens to eviscerate environmental protections for forests and endangered species, and mandate heavy logging. This bill is unprecedented in its sweeping rollbacks, and would also strip your rights to have a voice in the management of public lands.

If you live in Oregon, please call Senator Ron Wyden at (202) 224-5244 or send him a message (click here) to let him know you are opposed to this bill. It is especially important to call Senator Wyden. You can also contact Senator Merkley at (202) 224-3753 and (if you are in his district) Representative Earl Blumenauer at (202) 225-4811. The bill has not yet passed the House, but it is very important to contact both your Representatives and Senators as soon as possible. We need to show strong and widespread opposition to this extreme attack on public forests and on public involvement in federal land management.

If you live outside of Oregon, or are not in Rep. Blumenauer’s district, you can find out who your Representatives are by clicking here. You can find out who your Senators are by clicking here.

This bill would allow expedited logging of forests on public lands by gutting the current requirements for environmental and public review. It would also severely weaken protections under the Endangered Species Act. The “Resilient Federal Forest Act of 2017” would put clean water, vulnerable species, and healthy forests under attack from rampant logging and weakened protections.

The environmental laws and protections we have in place are, in many cases, the result of decades of costly and catastrophic pollution and environmental degradation that often jeopardized public health. Our environmental laws grew out of public outrage over polluted air and water, and devastated ecosystems. We need the protections we have to be strengthened, not weakened!

The “Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017” proposes to:

Greatly expand logging through the use of “Categorical Exclusions (CEs)”: Up to 30,000 acres of forests could be logged without an adequate or publicly transparent review of potential effects to the environment.

Currently, under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), most logging projects must undergo an environmental review that analyzes potential environmental impacts, and includes public input. This bill would gut the current regulations under NEPA, and allow the use of CEs to log tens of thousands of acres per project for many categories without any substantial environmental review.

“Categorical Exclusions” were created to allow agencies to do minor activities such as building outhouses or fixing sections of trail without having to conduct an environmental review. They were not intended to be used as tools to circumvent the NEPA environmental review process for logging hundreds of acres—much less tens of thousands of acres per project, as this bill proposes.

Greatly expand logging across forests in general: The bill would allow the use of CEs for reasons such as timber production, and natural disturbances such as wildfire and insects (these are disturbances that forests have evolved with and depend upon).

Greatly expand logging in sensitive post-fire habitats, including in many Inventoried Roadless Areas: The bill would allow for the use of CEs to expanded logging of ecologically sensitive forests that have experienced wildfire. There is overwhelming scientific consensus that logging in post-fire areas is extremely ecologically damaging and that there is no sound ecological rationale for logging these unique and fragile habitats. The bill would also make it far easier to log post-fire areas in Roadless Areas.

Roadless Areas are crucial for providing core habitats and clean water, and are some of the only remaining blocks of forests that are relatively un-impacted by widespread logging and by the thousands of miles of roads that crisscross most national forests. For example, the Malheur National Forest, where we work in eastern Oregon, has an average road density of over four miles of road per square mile. The Umatilla National Forest and the Wallowa-Whitman have averages of 3.5 and 3.7 miles of roads per square mile, respectively. These figures are not atypical, and demonstrate the excessive and severely bloated road system that blankets most areas within our National Forests. Roadless Areas are a small percentage, and it is crucial that we protect them from the fragmentation and water quality degradation that are unfortunately widespread outside of these areas.

Greatly expand logging in Potential Wilderness Areas: The bill would allow use of CEs to log in Potential Wilderness Areas, even if at-risk species and other sensitive ecological considerations are present. These areas are currently recognized as having Wilderness characteristics, and the potential to someday be designated as Wilderness by congress. This bill would allow Potential Wilderness Areas, already recognized as unique ecologically valuable, to be logged with almost no review, and would destroy their beauty and outstanding ecological and scenic values. The key role these areas play for vulnerable species and clean water would be under attack if this bill passes.

Remove protections for old growth forests: This bill would discontinue the implementation of the “Eastside Screens”, which have applied to eastern Oregon as well as certain other areas east of the Cascades in that region since the mid-90’s. The Eastside Screens prohibit logging of trees ≥21” in diameter at breast height, and restrict logging and degradation of old forest stands. Large trees, which many species depend upon, are recognized as at a severe deficit in the region due to past logging. This bill would allow for the logging of large, old growth trees in regions where there are currently prohibitions on logging trees over 21” in diameter at breast height.

Remove important protections for Endangered Species on public lands: This bill would weaken and in certain cases entirely remove current requirements for the Forest Service to consult with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that Threatened and Endangered Species are receiving adequate protections in relation to logging and other projects. Current procedures are already lacking, include many loopholes, and have been found by the courts on numerous occasions to be inadequate for protecting Endangered or Threatened species. This bill moves even more towards a fox-guarding-the-henhouse type of scenario.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) forests: This bill would mandate increased logging on many BLM forests, and would also do away with important “Survey and Manage” requirements, which help to protect sensitive and at-risk species. 

Make it harder to decommission roads: Despite the existing costly and overgrown road system on virtually every National Forest, this bill would create more ambiguous and unreasonable roadblocks to removing roads on public forests.

Allow for greatly expanded use of aerial spraying of herbicides: The bill may allow aerial herbicide spraying across miles of land near communities with no review of the effects to public safety and very little public notification.

Gut the ability of the public to challenge environmentally harmful projects: The bill would make it much harder to halt many kinds of projects (such as post-fire logging) through an injunction. That means that even if a logging project is illegal and threatening endangered species or other important ecological values, the area would likely be logged before a court case could be heard.

The bill would create an “arbitration” process by which even major logging projects could be selected for exemption from judicial (court) review, even if they are in clear violation of environmental laws and protections.

The bill would also make it harder to recover legal fees on cases, even when logging projects proposed by federal agencies are found to be illegal by the court.

Long-term planning for forest management: The bill allows the Forest Service, which manages National Forests, to be exempt from NEPA for their planning, and unilaterally declares that forest planning on National Forests is not a “major federal action”.

This bill would exacerbate climate change-related issues: Forests help fight climate change by sequestering carbon, with mature and unmanaged forests sequestering more carbon than heavily ‘managed’ forests. This bill threatens to devastate forest ecosystems and weaken their ability to adapt to or withstand climate change. It would also greatly reduce the ability of forests to sequester carbon.

We need more environmental protections, not less!

This bill poses extreme and unprecedented threats to forests, and if passed would return us to the era of widespread clearcuts, severe declines of at-risk species (such as salmon, lynx, wolves, and many others), and the loss of the precious and amazing public forests and ecological treasures we currently enjoy. Please stand up for public forests. Call and write today. Thank you!

For the Forests,

Paula Hood, Co-Director

Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project

Don’t forget to donate to help keep our ecological protection work going with Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project! See our website at: bluemountainsbiodiversityproject.org to learn more or donate electronically.

You can also send donations to: Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project, 27803 Williams Lane, Fossil, OR 97830

Call us at (541) 385-9167 if you want to volunteer with us by helping us field-survey proposed timber sales this summer.

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