The Latest: A House bill would double timber harvest

  • In mid-September, the House passed the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, which would continue Secure Rural Schools for one more year. Environmentalist oppose some provisions in the act.

    Oregon BLM

Western counties that once relied on timber revenue, especially in Oregon, now depend instead on federal aid provided by the Secure Rural Schools Act. But the law expired this year, and federal forest managers are trying new logging methods to increase income while also protecting forests. However, state and federal lawmakers continually press for higher harvest levels on national forests ("A new forest paradigm," HCN, 4/29/13).

In mid-September, the House passed the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, which would continue Secure Rural Schools for one more year. After that, local governments would again have to depend on logging revenues for most funding. Conservation groups oppose provisions in the act that double timber harvest from national forests and curtail environmental review, but supporters say it will create 200,000 jobs and save nearly $400 million. The White House threatens a veto, stating that the legislation "would significantly harm sound long-term management of these Federal lands," harm wildlife and forests, and conflict with existing law.

Matthew Koehler
Matthew Koehler
Oct 15, 2013 07:54 AM

Here’s some information to consider regarding Rep Steve Daines mandated logging bill, the so-called "Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act" (HR 1526), which passed the US House on September 20.

In Montana, it’s estimated that Rep Daines' mandated logging bill would result in a 6 fold increase in National Forest logging across the state. However, the logging mandates contained in Daines' bill would impact each National Forest differently. As such, Daines' bill would result in:

• 300 X’s more logging on the Helena National Forest;
• 150 X’s more logging on the Lewis and Clark National Forest;
• 30 X’s more logging on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest;
• 13 X’s more logging on the Lolo National Forest;
• 7 X’s more logging on the Gallatin National Forest;
• 6 X’s more logging on the Kootenai National Forest; and
• 4 X’s more logging on the Flathead National Forest.

(Note: Compared with 2012 National Forest timber sale volumes)

These dramatic increases in logging would be achieved by undermining America’s public lands legacy by simply having members of Congress mandate dramatic increases in industrial logging by exempting all National Forest logging sales up to 15.6 square miles in size from public input, environmental analysis and gutting the Endangered Species Act.

Rep Daines’ "Logging Without Laws" bill also has the US Congress simply closing the US Federal Court House doors, forbidding any citizen lawsuits on certain types of industrial logging projects, which is inherently undemocratic. Daines’ bill applies to all of America’s 155 National Forests, not just those National Forests in Montana.

New information also reveals that, contrary to claims by Daines, Montana counties would get less money for roads and schools under Daines' mandated logging bill than what they current receive through Secure Rural Schools funding (Source:[…]/)

While Rep Daines, Senator Tester and the timber industry claim "gridlock" prevents National Forest logging, between 2008 and 2012 the US Forest Service sold enough logging sales in Montana and North Idaho to fill over 239,000 logging trucks, which if lined up end-to-end, would stretch for 2,048 miles.

Fortunately, President Obama has threatened to veto Rep Daines mandated logging bill. The battle now goes to the US Senate, which in theory should be against mandating huge increases in National Forest logging through "Logging Without Laws" and gutting the Endangered Species Act, limiting public input and environmental analysis.

However, the fact that Senator Tester and Senator Baucus have their very own mandated National Forest logging bill (the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act) already introduced in the US Senate all bets are off and basically anything can happen in the Senate.

It's also worth pointing out that, to date, there has not been one word of concern, protest, opposition about Rep Daines' massively egregious mandated logging bill from the Montana Wilderness Association, Montana Trout Unlimited, Montana Wildlife Federation or any of the other 'collaborators' supporting Sen Tester's mandated logging bill.

Instead, the Montana Wilderness Association is encouraging Tester, Baucus and Daines to "work together" on a mandated logging bill for Montanans National Forest. How much sense does that make?


“Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act" (HR 1526)

• Creates a legally-binding public lands logging mandate with no environmental or fiscal feasibility limits, and reestablishing the discredited 25% logging revenue sharing system with counties that was eliminated over a decade ago.

• Public participation and Endangered Species Act protections would be severely limited in Rep Daines' bill. The bill creates huge loopholes in NEPA and such biased ESA requirements that in practice these laws would almost never meaningfully apply. For example, any project less than 10,000 acres (that’s 15.6 square miles) would be categorically excluded from environmental analysis and public participation, and the Forest Service would be required to submit a finding that endangered species are not jeopardized by any project, regardless of its actual effect on the species.

• Rep Daines successfully attached an amendment to the bill that would forbid the US Federal Courts from ever issuing injunctions against Forest Service logging projects based on alleged violations of procedural requirements in selecting, planning, or analyzing the project.

• Another amendment successfully added to the bill has the US Congress closing the US Federal Court House doors for any national forest timber sale resulting from the 2013 wildfires. Essentially this results in “Logging Without Laws,” as one entire branch of the US Government (the Judicial branch) is forbidden from hearing this issue.
chuck dunn
chuck dunn
Oct 15, 2013 02:47 PM
Mike Evans
Mike Evans Subscriber
Oct 15, 2013 04:30 PM
The impacts of Rim Fire are not relevant to the story and have nothing to do with this proposed legislation. Sustainable forestry, including timber harvest, requires a set of checks and balances. I don't think "Logging without Laws" would be good for the resource or the forest communities in the short term, and certainly not in the long haul. These area PUBLIC lands. No one person, industry, or interest has any exclusive right to them, especially if it would cause them irreparable harm.
Patrick Hunter
Patrick Hunter
Oct 15, 2013 07:22 PM
Just another example of the corporate-backed right wing banging away at things they dislike. They are constantly on offense and the "we the people" are always on defense. People who were elected to protect the natural resources will not do "squat". They should be replaced with people who will show the same energy as the righties. I never see articles about strengthening and spreading laws to protect our environment.
How about this: if people want to log, let them do it with hand saws; like in the old days. Enough of using heavy machinery that devastates a forest. More people can be put to work. Fewer trees would be harvested. A higher price would be charged for the lumber; and that is a good thing. It should cost more, and then we would take better care of it.
William R DeJager
William R DeJager Subscriber
Oct 16, 2013 11:22 AM
That's not true about the Rim Fire. First, logging is not expressly forbidden in areas that have had fires- any proposed timber sales on national forest land within the fire zone will have to go through the sames processes as any normal timber sale. Second, not all of the 400 square miles that burned was even forested beforehand, though most of it was. Some of it is foothill country that does not grow commercial timber. Third, part of that 400 square miles is in Yosemite National Park which is off-limits to commercial logging in any case, though they are certainly removing hazard trees along roads and around developments.
Robert Jacobson
Robert Jacobson Subscriber
Oct 22, 2013 11:34 PM
Hey, it's the same House that held up the workings of government for two weeks for no particular purpose except venomous spite. Why are we surprised? These people wage war on humans and nature alike without regard. The problem is the supine Senate, which is less barbarian but equally susceptible to corporate blandishments. And a President whose loyalties are suspect. Too bad the trees can't vote.
William V McConnell
William V McConnell Subscriber
Nov 07, 2013 09:21 AM
National Forests nationwide are now cutting about 7% of their annual growth on non-reserved timberlands. Doubling the cut would mean cutting 14% of the growth while a sixfold increase would result in cutting about 42% of the annual growth. Cutting less that half of growth is totally sustainable and certainly no cause for the panic it is causing among the uninformed.