By Alexandra Bower
Senator John Barrasso (R- Wyoming) introduced a bill, the National Forest Jobs and Management Act of 2014, which passed the House 268-154 yesterday, with support from 41 Democrats and all Republicans.
The bill is an effort to resuscitate the logging industry in national forests by reducing the price and environmental review associated with it. In turn, this means that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) — which requires federal agencies to consider the environmental impacts of certain major federal actions — would be limited in its assessments of the proposed logging. The Wilderness Society opposes the restrictions because of the stipulations laid out in the bill that could enforce logging in sensitive lands that were previously protected by NEPA. The bill defines the term “suitable timberlands” as lands available to be logged, including old-growth reserves and other protected lands. This could lead to a 150 percent upsurge in present logging levels and a definite increase in logging on protected federal lands. Paul Spitler, the Wilderness Society director of wilderness campaigns, calls the bill “an ugly one.”
Barrasso’s bill designates a 7.5-million-acre logging quota, which could force the Forest Service to transfer funding from other important programs, such as wildfire management and urban forestry programs. The Forest Service, and many national conservation groups including American Forests and the Wilderness Society, believe the constraints on NEPA and the detrimental impact of increased logging are injurious to the lasting sustainability of national forests.
Barrasso’s bills have been strongly opposed by conservation groups who emphasized the threatened wildlife in question. However, they were backed by the timber industry.