Defunding forest planning, Roads lawsuit & Does litigation cause wildfires?

by Rex Storm, Forest Policy Manager
Associated Oregon Loggers

Congress Attempts to Defund USFS Planning: When the US House Interior Appropriations Committee passed its FY2013 budget for the US Forest Service in June, it eliminated all funding for national forest planning and implementing its horrible new Planning Rule. The Committee said the Forest Service blatantly ignored Congressional direction stated in the National Forest Management Act, and the agency ignored local government & stakeholder input during rulemaking. The new Rule places unworkable requirements on future forest plans, and would increase litigation. Stay tuned.

Congress Advances Bill to Fix Roads Lawsuit: Before its August recess, the US House Transportation Committee approved the ‘Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act’ (HR.2541), which would overturn the harmful 2010 Ninth Circuit Court ruling that subjects forest roads to federal Clean Water Act regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency. Congress last year blocked the EPA from regulating forest roads; but that law expires Sept. 30, 2012. Meanwhile, the US Supreme Court this fall will hear an appeal of the Ninth Circuit decision.

Congress Examines Catastrophic Fires and Litigation: The US House Resources Committee held an oversight hearing in July to address environmentalist litigation impacts on causing of large national forest fires, and fire impacts on people and endangered species. The hearing exposed how wildfires are caused by unmanaged federal forests, and how harvesting excess trees would help reduce future catastrophic wildfires. Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) said, “…laws are being abused by environmental groups through endless lawsuits to block (harvest) projects.”

Western Governors Letter to Congress: In July, four Governors from the Western Governors’ Association, including Oregon Gov. Kitzhaber, sent a letter to the leaders in both the US Senate and House— requesting that Congress provide added funding for federal firefighting, as well as timely forest health treatments before fires, salvage and restoration after fires. The Governors pointed out in the letter that without supplemental funding, the federal wildfires would be larger and the agencies would be forced to spend other program budgets instead on firefighting.

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