Congressman Schrader advances forest roads/jobs protection plan

Schrader, Walden Lead Effort to Support Bipartisan Plan to Protect Forest Roads and Jobs
Congressman Kurt Schrader,

Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) announced a bipartisan effort to support approval of the “Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act” (H.R. 2541), which would protect forest owners from costly new federal regulations and permit requirements for forest roads.

Due to a recent court decision, the federal government may soon regulate run-off from roads in the woods the same way they regulate discharge from factories or sewage treatment plants. This would force private and public land owners to get permits for their roads, increasing their costs for compliance and opening the door for new lawsuits.

This bipartisan bill would maintain the status quo of how forest roads are regulated by the EPA, which is in line with the state of Oregon’s standards. Forty-two members of the House signed a letter of support to the leadership of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which then reviewed the bill today and approved it unanimously.

“I am very pleased the House Transportation Committee passed our broadly supported, bipartisan legislation that creates the certainty our forests and rural communities need,” Rep. Schrader said. “The timber industry and the EPA have worked together to sustainably and responsibly manage our forests for more than three decades, and this bill ensures they can continue to regulate using the state’s Best Management Practices. The ability to do so is crucial to our rural economies and helps keep our forests healthy and thriving. As our economy recovers we need to make sure we remember our rural communities that have often been hurting longer from the downturn.”

“This plan would prevent more costly and lawsuit-prone regulations from impacting forestry jobs in the Northwest by subjecting public and private forest roads and operations on those roads to costly permitting requirements. Today, a bipartisan coalition in the House sent a strong message in support of advancing a permanent solution to reaffirm EPA’s decades-old standard that has worked, ensuring certainty for forest owners and managers and protecting jobs in our forests,” Rep. Walden said.

In 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unexpectedly invalidated the EPA’s 35-year old rules for forest roads. The Supreme Court will review this ruling, but likely will not make its decision until 2013.

The “Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act”, if approved by the House and Senate and signed by the President, would give certainty to forest owners and managers now and in the future. This bipartisan plan would preserve EPA’s position that forest roads should not be regulated as pollution sources under the Clean Water Act and would prevent further determinations in the future by the federal government that costly permits be required for everyday activities, such as reforestation, thinning, and pest and fire control, that occur across the country on public, private, state and tribal forest roads.

Absent this, private and public forest owners and managers across the country will be subjected to an even greater deal of uncertainty about whether they will be sued, forced to stop activities on their lands, or required to obtain complex federal discharge permits.

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