Senate Agriculture Committee Makes Bad Wildfire Bill Even Worse

Filed under:General — eric @ 11:11 am

The Senate Agriculture Committee yesterday made a bad wildfire bill even worse by further expanding the excuses for gutting environmental protections for commercial logging in National Forests. The Senate is expected to vote on wildfire legislation, based on the Bush Administration’s ill-named “Healthy Forests Legislation,” in September. Rather than increasing funding and resources to protect communities from wildfires, or preserving the right of the public to have say in the management of their National Forests, the Committee simply made it easier for timber corporations to log old-growth trees and make a profit off of tax-payer lands.

Among the damaging provisions the committee added to the bill (HR 1904) was language to expand the areas where destructive logging can take place without environmental review or oversight. Under the committee-passed bill, timber companies could receive taxpayer subsidies to log anywhere in National Forests hit by an ice storm.

A May 14, 2003 General Accounting Office report showed that two out of every three acres of federal lands logged in the past two years were outside of the “wildland-urban interface” – the area where communities and forest areas intersect. But scientific studies have shown that the best way to protect communities is to thin small trees and brush from immediately around homes and buildings – not by logging large, fire resistant trees deep in National Forests miles away from where people live. Studies have also shown that 85 percent of the land surrounding communities most at risk of fire is state, private or tribal land – not federal land. But money under this bill is directed almost exclusively to federal land.

Along with adding ice storms to the list of reasons to roll back environmental review and interfere with the independent judiciary, the committee-passed bill also added municipal watersheds to the areas exempted from environmental safeguards. This expansion means that many more logging projects far from communities will be exempted from important environmental reviews.

More information about industrial logging under the guise of fuels reduction can be found in this PDF document from the American Lands Alliance.
[Listening to: boogie on the beach - red elvises - ]