House farm bill offers NEPA exclusions to combat beetle infestations

An article from E&E News today says that a “House farm bill offers NEPA exclusions to combat beetle infestations.” The text of the article is here.

“Projects within those areas that are consistent with forest management plans would be categorically excluded from a NEPA review if they are smaller than 10,000 acres. Projects would also be exempt from the administrative review process under the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003.”

I think it highly unlikely that this will end up in the final bill, but it may be worthy of some discussion. Would it even be legal?

3 thoughts on “House farm bill offers NEPA exclusions to combat beetle infestations”

  1. Categorical exclusions rarely work at reducing the time it takes to get timber projects going. They are always seen as shortcuts and end runs. With a limit of 10,000 acres, that would virtually assure that the Forest Service could do what it wants within those impacted areas. Any plans to exclude opinions of eco-groups are doomed to end up in court. Congress needs to understand that. A compromise that can make it through the courts can result in earned trust. There does seem to be some potential for NEPA exclusions, based on historic use but, salvage trees have shelf lives, and eco-groups know this. Unfortunately, some litigators will cling to that power to the bitter and destructive end.

    The House puts together all sorts of bills that would never pass through the Senate. It might be some sort of political grandstanding, to show the public they are “trying” but, the other side won’t cooperate.

  2. I got more information about this situation by talking with one of the four part-time people in DC who actually work now-a-days on forest policy issues for the big environmental NGO’s….Yep, that’s right, the Big Green forest policy lobby is now down to 4 part-timers. But I digress….

    Seems like the House GOP has gone off the deep end with fire and beetle hysteria.

    This House GOP proposal would not only exclude from NEPA review Forest Service logging projects up to 10,000 acres (Nearly 16 square miles)…..

    But the House GOP bill would also exclude from NEPA review ALL oil/gas drilling, grazing, coal mining and fracking projects under 10,000 acres on National Forests, which is quite literally every single Forest Service project.

    Will the logging industry speak out publicly and at least state that excluding from NEPA review ALL Forest Service projects (oil, gas, grazing, fracking, mining) under 10,000 is simply crazy and outlandish?

    I was told that Senator Baucus and a few other Senate Dems got an amendment in the Senate version of the Farm Bill that removes some of the most egregious aspects of the House GOP bill, but even the Baucus amendment succumbs to ‘fire and beetle hysteria’ by promoting more logging of entire sub-watersheds on national forests and offering no protections to roadless or backcountry areas.

    Baucus’ bill would also weaken already weak and largely toothless “old-growth and large-tree” retention guidelines that were part of the GW Bush-era “Healthy Forest” Restoration Act of 2003 (see below).

    I’m told that not one Big Green group in the country supports either the House GOP proposal or the Baucus amendment.

    HFRA 2003 Language:

    (1) IN GENERAL.—Except in old growth stands where the management direction is consistent with subsection (e)(2), the Secretary shall carry out a covered project in a manner that—

    (A) focuses largely on small diameter trees, thinning, strategic fuel breaks, and prescribed fire to modify fire behavior, as measured by the projected reduction of uncharacteristically severe wildfire effects for the forest type (such as adverse soil impacts, tree mortality or other impacts); and

    (B) maximizes the retention of large trees, as appropriate for the forest type, to the extent that the trees promote fire-resilient stands.


    Senator Baucus’ Farm Bill amendment language:

    TREE RETENTION.—The Secretary shall carry out projects under subsection (d) in a manner that maximizes the retention of old-growth and large trees, as appropriate for the forest type, to the extent that the trees promote stands that are resilient to insects and disease.

    Here’s some more info:

    Senate Farm Bill (as passed out of Ag Cmte) – click on link that says “S.954 – Committee Passed” and then go to Section 8203:

    House Farm Bill (see Title VIII Subtitle D, starting on page 464 of the PDF) –


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