June 30, 2017
From our friends at the Southern Rockies Conservation Alliance:
Lots of really bad bills have been introduced into this session of Congress. But HR 2936, the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017, is probably the worst. It is sponsored by Rep Bruce Westerman of AR. Our own Scott Tipton is a co-sponsor, as are six Reps from other states, including 2 Democrats. It would apply to National Forest and BLM lands. It is similar to a bill introduced in the last Congress, but worse.
See this memo by Mike Anderson of The Wilderness Society. Below are some of the lowlights of this horrible bill:
--allows categorical exclusions (i. e., no EA or EIS) of up to 10,000 acres, and in some cases, 30,000 acres, for a wide variety of management activities, including producing timber.
--alternatives for some projects would not have to be considered, other than no action and proposed action.
--allows agencies to self-consult on Endangered Species Act (ESA) and National Historical Preservation Act impacts. In other words, the FS and BLM would not have to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, or the State Historical Preservation Officers if the Forest Service or BLM determined that serious impacts from a proposed project or activity were unlikely.
--reduces protection for roadless areas by allowing logging where permitted under forest plans.
--reduce protection for wilderness by not requiring the impacts of any activity therein to be disclosed in an EIS.
--forest plans would not have to be prepared with EISs.
--the language is confusing, but it appears the bill would not require any ESA consultation for Forest Service or BLM management plans, at least if critical habitat would not be affected.
--injunctions and restraining orders against some projects would be prohibited, and lawyers would not be able to recover attorneys' fees for any project prepared under the proposed law.
In short, the bill would cut the heart out of NEPA and ESA, and expedite large projects for just about any forest management activity on national forest and BLM lands.
STATUS: Unfortunately, the bill passed the House Natural Resource Committee, Subcommittee on Federal Lands this morning on a party-line vote. The Democrats on the committee offered several amendments, but they were all rejected. It is expected to go to the House floor for a vote sometime in July.
Be alert for further updates on this bill. We absolutely must stop it from becoming law.