For Immediate Release, April 20, 2017
U.S. Sen. Barrasso Reintroduces Bill to Ramp Up Logging, Reduce Protections for Endangered Species on National Forests
WASHINGTON— U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) reintroduced legislation this week to significantly ramp up damaging logging, threaten endangered species and limit citizen and judicial efforts to prevent destruction of our national forests.
Barrasso’s bill (S. 879) would eliminate any input from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists on threats to endangered species from all logging projects that purport to be “restorative.” That would allow the U.S. Forest Service to review and rubberstamp its own proposals on how best to address “unhealthy” forests.
“This bill would allow the timber industry to dramatically increase dangerous logging under the guise of ‘ecosystem restoration,’” said Randi Spivak, public lands director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Senator Barrasso’s bill would greenlight reckless and irresponsible logging in our national forests, at the expense of our most endangered species.”
The Endangered Species Act requires the Fish and Wildlife Service to review any project that could jeopardize endangered species. Under Barrasso’s bill, the Forest Service would conduct its own review before approving a logging project, despite having no expertise in endangered species recovery.
This attack by Barrasso on the Endangered Species Act continues the congressional assault on the country’s most vulnerable wildlife, with 22 legislative attacks now seeking to strip protections from specific species or undercut the act.
In addition, Barrasso’s bill would curb the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirements that agencies scrutinize the environmental impacts of their proposals, while also requiring stepped-up logging. The bill excludes any environmental analysis and drastically limits public input on forest projects up to 15,000 acres — 23 square miles — in size. And it requires the Forest Service to log as many as 1 million acres a year — including clearcutting forests — with severely limited environmental reviews and public input.
“Barrasso’s bill will slam shut the courthouse door and subject citizens to financial ruin if they wanted to challenge a logging project,” Spivak said. “It’s clearly an attempt to let the timber industry have its way with our national forests.”
The bill would prohibit judicial review of most of these logging projects and instead force citizens to use a binding arbitration process. For projects that are still subject to judicial review, the legislation requires anyone challenging a logging project to post a bond equal to the estimated legal cost by the U.S. government.
“The very idea of charging taxpayers to challenge logging projects in their own backyard is unconscionable,” Spivak said. “Barrasso clearly doesn’t want his constituents, the courts — or anyone — to get in the way of the timber industry.”
Barrasso ranks among the top 15 members of Congress who are enemies of public lands, working to seize, privatize and develop America’s wildlands according to Public Lands Enemies, a recent Center report. Barrasso sponsored or cosponsored 12 anti-public lands bills since 2011 and has accepted nearly $2 million in campaign contributions since 2011 from oil, gas and energy industries.