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For Immediate Release

Contact

Susan Jane Brown, 503-914-1323, brown@westernlaw.org

Press Release

House Logging Bill (HR 2936) Guts Federal Environmental Laws, Literally Privatizes Public Lands, Creates Logging Free-for-All

TAOS, N.M. -

Tomorrow, the U.S. House of Representatives begins its consideration of HR 2936, known as the Westerman Bill after its author, Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR). The bill contains a cornucopia of loopholes, exemptions and categorical exclusions for environmental, judicial, and public review; and, incredibly, gives away public lands to adjacent private landowners.

The bill would be disastrous for forest health, requiring unsustainable logging, transferring endangered species authority away from the expert consulting agencies, and eliminating environmental analysis for a huge number of logging projects. The legislation also appears to revoke President Obama’s recent expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, the only National Monument in the country designated specifically to protect native biodiversity.
 
"The Westerman Bill is breathtaking in how brazenly it seeks to destroy responsible science-based forest management in this country," said Susan Jane Brown of the Western Environmental Law Center. “This legislation is a wish list from the timber industry, and would create more controversy and legal uncertainty than the infamous 1995 Salvage Rider, which served to undermine public trust in the credibility of the federal land management agencies,” Brown explained. “Moreover, the bill is an underhanded attempt to repeal the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, which is overwhelmingly supported by the public. The timber industry that supports this legislation should be ashamed.”
 
HR 2936 contains the following provisions:
  • Requires the Bureau of Land Management to offer for sale at least 500 million board feet of timber from the Oregon and California lands in southern Oregon, even when the maximum sustainable yield is much lower
  • Gives private landowners with easements over public land full ownership of that land
  • Allows logging projects under 10,000 acres to avoid detailed environmental analysis
  • Allows salvage logging projects under 10,000 acres without any analysis
  • Allows unstudied logging, grazing, livestock infrastructure construction, and herbicide application under the guise of wildfire risk mitigation for areas under 10,000 acres
  • Caps Endangered Species Act consultation for environmental issues arbitrarily at 90 days
  • Grants the Forest Service unilateral authority to forgo Endangered Species Act consultation
  • Severely limits public involvement timelines for large-scale projects on public lands
  • Prohibits restraining orders, preliminary injunctions, and injunctions pending appeal, severely limiting public oversight via the courts
  • Erodes public oversight by extending logging projects' maximum duration from 10 to 20 years
  • Diverts money from stewardship contracts and collaborative forest restoration to the Forest Service to plan additional timber sales
  • Prevents consultation for endangered species after a land management plan has been changed
  • Prohibits awarding of attorney fees when courts find the government broke the law
  • Removes enforceability of forest plans making them strictly advisory
  • Redirects authority to determine harm to endangered species from the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to land management agencies
  • Eliminates application of Survey and Manage, one of the key old growth forest protections of the Northwest Forest Plan
  • Requires that all Oregon and California Lands be managed according to the Oregon and California Lands Act of 1937, which may supersede subsequent designation as National Monument lands pursuant to the Antiquities Act of 1906

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The Western Environmental Law Center uses the power of the law to safeguard the public lands, wildlife, and communities of the American West in the face of a changing climate. We envision a thriving, resilient West, abundant with protected public lands and wildlife, powered by clean energy, and defended by communities rooted in an ethic of conservation.

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