The House of Representatives has passed another bill that would suspend some environmental laws so that more logging can occur in federal forests. Similar to one passed in the House in 2013, it would enhance fire prevention and restoration, according to the proponents of the legislation which has three supporters in the Senate who introduced it there.
Below are excerpts from an Op-Ed in the New York Times about this effort which failed two years ago.
…Just as they did in 2013, supporters of this legislation are using the public’s fear of forest fires to advance their agenda. They argue that overgrown and “unhealthy” forests raise the risk of wildfires, and that the government has been hampered by litigation and environmental reviews from allowing timber companies to thin forests to reduce the risk of fire.
The legislation is rooted in falsehoods and misconceptions.
Some of the bill’s supporters claim that environmental laws regulating commercial logging have led to more intense fires. But, as we saw in the 2013 fire near Yosemite, known as the Rim Fire and one of the largest in California history, commercial logging and the clear-cutting of forests do not reduce fire intensity.
In the case of the Rim Fire, our research found that protected forest areas with no history of logging burned least intensely. There was a similar pattern in other large fires in recent years. Logging removes the mature, thick-barked, fire-resistant trees. The small trees planted in their place and the debris left behind by loggers act as kindling; in effect, the logged areas become combustible tree plantations that are poor wildlife habitat.
The bill’s supporters also argue that increasing logging and clear-cutting will benefit wildlife. But decades of forest ecology research strongly link the logging of both unburned and burned forests to the declines of numerous wildlife species, most notably the imperiled spotted owl.
Recognizing these findings, some 250 scientists sent a letter to Congress in 2013 opposing a similar version of the current legislation. They predicted, correctly, that the Rim Fire would actually benefit many wildlife species and rejuvenate the forest ecosystem, provided that the burned expanses were not then cleared by loggers…
The bill is titled, H.R.2647 – Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015. The status of it can be followed at Congress.gov. As this is written, it has passed the House and now is before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.
The Op-Ed was written by Chad T. Hanson, an ecologist with the John Muir Project, and Dominick A. DellaSala, the chief scientist at the Geos Institute. They are the editors of “The Ecological Importance of Mixed-Severity Fires: Nature’s Phoenix.”