Falls View Campground, Olympic National Forest – Patricia Jones
July and August will be hot in Washington, D.C., for federal forests. The U.S. House of Representatives passed their version of the Farm Bill (H.R. 2) in a close, rancorous partisan vote of 213–211. Washington’s delegation voted along party lines with Olympic Peninsula Reps. Kilmer voting against and Herrera Beutler for the bill.
The House version included provisions for federal forests that weakened environmental protections. The Forestry title would allow unprecedented increases in categorical exclusions from National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review and analysis for parcels up to 6,000 acres for several management activities (wildfire risk, hazardous fuels reduction, forest restoration, forest infrastructure projects, special use permits). “Collaborative” projects not already excluded from environmental review would require only two alternatives to be analyzed—the “no action” and proposed action—rather than reasonable alternatives to protect the environment and mitigate harm.
Without NEPA review, the scope and scale of harvest activities will not be evaluated by the public to ensure that the project does not harm the environment. The bill also sets limits on courts for injunctive relief. The bill abolishes the “Roadless Rule” protections for all national lands systems in Alaska. The bill establishes NEPA categorical exclusions for a “pilot project” for all lands in Lincoln, Cibola and Gila National Forests in New Mexico, and establishes arbitration for dispute resolution. In conference with the Senate, these provisions will be open to change.
The Senate Farm Bill was drafted and passed in a bipartisan effort with a vote of 86 to 11 and contained none of the environmental protection rollbacks found in the House bill.
The Senate and House will go into conference on the Farm Bill after the July recess to come to agreement. The agreed bill will go back to each chamber for passage, and then to the president in September. The Farm Bill provisions will set policy for federal forests until 2023. There will be advocacy opportunities in July and August on the Farm Bill to ensure that strong protections for our federal forests are in place for the next five years. Be ready to contact your elected officials and to pass on action alerts to friends, colleagues and families in other states as the action unfolds this summer.
Marbled Murrelet, Northern Spotted Owl, Climate Change and Federal Forests
The U.S. Forest Service published their final science synthesis report for the update of the Northwest Forest Plan,
The report includes chapters on the Marbled Murrelet, Northern Spotted Owl, climate change (Vol. 1), other species and aquatic lands (Vol. 2), and tribes, cultural values and environmental justice (Vol. 3). In three volumes, the survey covers science by the Forest Service, federal agencies, tribes and universities since 1994 when the Northwest Forest Plan was enacted. The science will help lay the foundation for federal forests on the Olympic Peninsula and the 16 other forests in Western Washington, Oregon and Northern California. The area covers 24 million acres of public lands.
Rep. Bishop (R-UT), Chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and Rep. Westerman (R-AR), Subcommittee on Oversight, have launched an investigation into the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)’s efforts to protect aquatic species from military operations in the Pacific. The basis: NRDC is acting on behalf of China to weaken national security and must register as a “foreign agent.” The letter to NRDC states that given the “close ties between NRDC and the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese Communist Party,” the Committee wants to explore the close relationship and NRDC’s efforts to influence U.S. security policy. The proof of NRDC’s ties?: the fact that NRDC reports on China’s environmental efforts and helps China to maintain a positive perception to the American public, and that NRDC is more critical, litigious and takes an adversarial approach to the U.S. government—in particular the U.S. Navy’s operations in the Pacific.
“We are interested in environmental litigation by U.S.-based 501(c) organizations against the Department of Defense and its negative impact on our national security,” House Natural Resources Committee Chair Rob Bishop and Oversight Subcommittee Chair Bruce Westerman wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis. – Reuters
NRDC responded to the probe saying they were looking forward to meeting with the Committee, and that their work is on behalf of Americans and the world our future generations will inherit.
The Wilderness Society (TWS) led the effort to oppose the forest provisions in the Forestry Title of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2), known as “the House Farm Bill that aimed at deconstructing decades of conservation work for our federal forests.” See some of the attempted rollback of environmental protections here.
The bill failed passage in the House (yeas 198 to 213 nays). According to TWS, the takeaway: This version failed because of its radical departure from the past more bipartisan efforts. The Senate will be taking up some version of the farm bill. The regressive goals of the bill likely will come back in other forms; for now, they have failed. They include:
- Repealing the Conservation Stewardship Program and incorporating parts of the program into the Environmental Quality Incentives Program;
- Revising the requirements and process for the Environmental Protection Agency pesticide registration program;
- Requiring farmers to make a one-time election to obtain either price loss coverage or agricultural risk coverage for the 2019–2023 crop years; and
- Expanding the categorical exclusions that exempt certain forest management activities from requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act to prepare an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement.
(excerpted from the Congressional Research Service bill summary)
See the conservation letter here.
Essayist, poet and conservationist Tim McNulty wrote a wonderful “Letter to America” about the hope of the Elwha dam removal. Thanks to Tim and Terrain.org for their efforts to protect, respect and conserve our Olympic Peninsula.