Measure would exempt huge logging projects from environmental review
Logging projects as large as 10,000 acres could be rushed to approval without environmental reviews under a new bill proposed by Sen. John Thune, (R-S.D.).
As introduced, the law would limit public comment and disclosure of the environmental impacts of large-scale logging projects. The measure is similar to a House bill that also aims to significantly limit public input and scientific environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act.
“Senate Republicans seem all too eager to let special interests destroy some of our most vital public lands, wildlife and watersheds,” said Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This bill would return forest management to the dark ages, when reckless logging devastated wildlife, degraded rivers, and ruined recreation opportunities for millions of Americans.”
The sponsors of the measure are using false science to try and gain support, claiming that such large-scale logging is needed to clear beetle-infested trees and prevent wildfires. That assumption has been debunked by studies showing that insect outbreaks do not increase wildfire likelihood, and in fact they can reduce wildfires’ burn severity.
The bill also would try to block citizens and environmental groups from challenging projects in court by setting up a process that would allow the Interior secretary to arbitrarily decide which projects can sidestep judicial review.
“This is nothing but a timber industry wish list to log national forests for any reason, while deliberately blocking public input,” said Spivak. “Proponents are shamefully playing on the public’s fears to advance their agenda. But the only motivation for this bill is to help logging companies make more money.”
In the first four months of the 115th Congress, Republicans have introduced more than 60 bills attacking public lands, weakening environmental safeguards on those lands, or turning over their control to states and local governments. These attacks come despite the fact that the vast majority of voters across political parties support protecting and maintaining forests, national parks, monuments, and other public lands and waters.