The Smokey Wire Volunteer Opportunity! Finding the Forest in Legislation

There seem to be more bills floating around in Congress about fire and forests and carbon than ever before.  Jon Haber does a terrific job on rounding up litigation; it would be wonderful if someone (or a group) would be willing to do the same for legislation.  It’s definitely more than I can keep up with.  And if it is your day job, being anonymous would be perfectly acceptable. All you would have to do is find the key provisions of interest and post them.. we can discuss the pros and cons, and add relevant info, here.

We can’t count on news stories to go to the detail we’d prefer. Different reporters are interested in different things, and generally don’t provide the comprehensive view related to our interests.. so we are left with “what other people the reporter contacted thought about the bill.” Not quite as useful as the text, IMHO.

Here’s one example from E&E news..(granted the reporter mostly works on climate.. so..) interesting choice of interviewees, Chad Hanson, Tim Ingalsbee (asserting that fuel treatments of various kinds don’t work..) and a researcher from the Midwest.

But it takes more than just keeping the big trees to get fire resilience, said Jessica McCarty, a Miami University professor who studies wildfire. Operating the logging machinery can be a fire risk, and moving such equipment through the forest leaves lasting disturbances.

“If you take out everything but the large trees, you’ve probably disturbed and/or compacted the soil. Then what’s going to grow in the understory? Probably grasses and forbs. And to be quite frank, in North America, that means you have a high likelihood of invasive species,” she said.

It would be a good thing for federal agencies to shift their timber programs toward sustainable, climate adaptive practices, McCarty added. That would mean an end to clear-cutting and better incentives for more selective logging in natural areas.

I was curious about the details of this mentioned in the article..

It also creates a new federal system for subsidizing sawmills and other wood processing facilities, along with $400 million in new financial assistance. “Close proximity” to a sawmill would become a factor for agencies to consider when funding federal land restoration.

So decided to do a search on Forest. One of the first things I ran across was about permitting critical minerals, so I got sidetracked.

(e) FEDERAL PERMITTING AND REVIEW PERFORMANCE REQUIREMENTS—To improve the quality and timeliness of Federal permitting and review processes with respect to critical mineral production on Federal land, the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Director of the Bureau of Land Management, and the Secretary of Agriculture, acting through the Chief of the Forest Service (referred to in this section as the ‘‘Secretaries’’), to the maximum extent practicable, shall complete the Federal permitting and review processes with maximum efficiency and effectiveness, while supporting vital economic growth, by— …

and it goes on at some length about how to do that.

Interesting, but searching on “forest” through more than 2000 pages is time-consuming. Now I know that there are individuals in Forest Service Legislative Affairs who do this work, but unfortunately we don’t have access to their work the same way we have access to Litigation Weekly. It would be quite a public service if that could be done, IMHO, and good press for the FS.

Anyway, until that day The Smokey Wire could really use one or more helpers in this area. Please consider it.

2 thoughts on “The Smokey Wire Volunteer Opportunity! Finding the Forest in Legislation”

  1. I’m not volunteering, but I had set a couple of things aside recently I had thought about tacking onto a litigation summary. These are just bills that have been introduced, which may have no chance of passing (you really need someone with behind the scenes insights to figure out what/who might actually be important), but it does give you an idea what some people are thinking, and this blog would be a good audience. Both bills are short, and I’ve included links to them.

    Most of this reads like a press release from the timber industry, but here is Senator Thune’s (S.D.) recent contribution (yet another categorial exclusion; but maybe the problem is really not enough money, and this isn’t the way to solve that):

    “The Expediting Forest Restoration and Recovery Act would:

    Require the USFS to expedite treatment through application of the insect and disease and hazardous fuels categorical exclusion for projects on acres suitable for timber production while providing necessary exclusions for National Wilderness Preservation System lands and roadless areas;

    Require the USFS to publish a report annually detailing the acres that have been treated;

    Require the USFS to prioritize reducing the risks of infestations and wildfires over other objectives in forest plans;

    Add Fire Regime Groups IV and V to the insect and disease and hazardous fuels categorical exclusion, because science and recent events have shown that these group are susceptible to wildfires and insect epidemics; and

    Allow states to retain good neighbor agreement timber sale revenues for authorized restoration services on any land under a good neighbor agreement in the state.”

    This one appears to have originated with Montana’s Rep. Rosendale (who, given his votes with the extreme minority on everything indicate that nothing he says is “commonsense.”)

    “Litigation reform is needed to help prevent the huge wildfires we are experiencing across the West. Radical environmentalists have weaponized the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act and are using frivolous lawsuits to block nearly every management project or salvage sale that the U.S. Forest Service proposes,” said LaMalfa, R-Richvale. “This means that needed work is delayed making our forests even more vulnerable to fire. Rep. Rosendale’s bill would make much needed reforms and prevent lawyers from blocking needed hazardous fuels reduction projects.”

    “It is far past time for us to put a stop to the constant barrage of frivolous litigation from radical activists aimed at halting forest management activities. The Forest Litigation Reform Act is a commonsense approach to fix this abuse of our judicial system and ensure we can manage our public lands sustainably,” Rosendale added.

    This legislation would prevent litigation from impeding responsible forest management practices needed to conserve the nation’s forests and mitigate wildfire risk by streamlining the litigation process and creating an alternative dispute process to resolve claims against forestry management projects to be resolved through arbitration.

    This includes barring attorneys fees for qualifying management activities and attempting to influence judicial injunctions.

    • Thanks, Jon! I do have contacts that can give insight into the likelihood of bills passing, but not anyone who has time to find the language and post it. Otherwise we’re going to have to believe what NGOs say, and it’s hard to interpolate between “best thing since sliced bread” and “end of the planet as we know it”.


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