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house Bill H.R. 3715

Should Reforestation & Salvage Projects in National Scenic Areas be Expedited After Catastrophic Events Like Wildfires?

Argument in favor

Salvage logging is a healthy and beneficial part of the reforestation process, and this bill would let that process move more quickly in national scenic areas decimated by wildfire.

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09/16/2017
Absolutely. Lowering the regulatory burdens on salvage logging means lowering the cost of the logging industry, which translates to lower market prices for all wood products. I understand the negative aspects of salvage logging, but in this case, I see more value in providing lower costs and quicker times for logging than preserving desolated forests.
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Kathy's Opinion
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09/16/2017
If we don't use the opportunity to replant and reforest burned areas judiciously, water will be polluted, soil will be lost and desertification, particularly in the western part of the country will rapidly increase. We need to fight the environmental destruction and this is a way to do so!
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Henry's Opinion
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09/16/2017
If fires are part of the ecosystem then we should allow the system to work. If we prevent the system to work naturally then the fires are hotter and more destructive. As for logging afterward I think it should be done on case by case basis determined by how destructive it would be on the habitat. However i think reseeding with natural plant could help.
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Argument opposed

Salvage logging can be very destructive to the environment and shouldn’t be permitted in national scenic areas following wildfires.

Lexi's Opinion
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09/16/2017
While some wildfires are human caused, wildfires are a natural part of the ecosystem, and the ecosystem should build itself up naturally after disasters such as these. The life cycle of nature doesn't need our help all the time; this is one of those times.
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Pamela 's Opinion
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09/16/2017
After reading the details of this bill it seems like another shady attempt to allow logging in protected areas and justify it by using natural disasters as an excuse.
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Ticktock's Opinion
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09/16/2017
Less than 10% of the fires in our national fires are started by humans, forest fires are a natural part of the life cycle of a forest and so is the debris left behind after the fire occurs. The fire removes underbrush, dead trees and promulgates new growth. Some plants only release seeds as result of fire. Carbon resulting from the fire enriches the soil. Fire makes the forest in many ways healthier. Cleaning up the forest after a fire may be a way that some see as making the forested lands static and unchanging but forest do change over time. The suggestion of cleaning up after a fire also smacks of this Administrations way of opening our national parks to logging and I've seen that. Industrial logging is decimation on a level that fires don't approach. Fire is a renewable event and occurs in nature without humans. Logging is a scar that we leave behind that take a decade or more for the land to recover. If we want quick recovery leave the forest alone they'll fix themselves without the erosion and human destruction.
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What is House Bill H.R. 3715?

This bill would expedite environmental reviews for salvage logging and reforestation projects in national scenic areas following catastrophic events like wildfires, windstorms, or volcanic eruptions. Proposed response activities would be submitted by the Forest Service within 30 days of the conclusion of a catastrophic event. Environmental reviews would be completed in a 60 day timeframe — 30 days for public scoping and comment, 15 days for filing an objection, and 15 days for the agency to respond to the filing of an objection.

The reforestation goal would be set at 75 percent of impacted lands before the end of the two-year period after the catastrophic event’s conclusion. Response activities could receive a categorical exclusion and be exempt from environmental reviews in areas of up to 10,000 acres that:

  • Are visible from key viewing areas, as described in the management plan for the National Scenic Area;

  • Provide screening for human development;

  • Are part of a municipal watershed;

  • Contain utility or power transmission right-of-ways.

No Endangered Species Act consultations would be required if response activities are determined “not likely” to adversely affect a listed species or critical habitat by the Secretary of Agriculture. If a consultation is requested by the secretary, it would be completed within 90 days, and if it comes to no conclusion the activities will be considered in compliance with the Endangered Species Act and carried out.

Courts would be prohibited from issuing restraining orders, preliminary injunctions, and injunctions pending appeal related to response activities.

Catastrophic event is defined by this bill as any natural disaster or any fire, flood, or explosion, regardless of cause.

Impact

Those who would enjoy national scenic areas after a catastrophic event and the general public; and the Forest Service.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 3715

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSponsoring Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) introduced this bill to expedite reforestation and salvage operations in national scenic areas following catastrophic events like the ongoing wildfire in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in a timely manner:

“What we’re trying to do here is clear the bureaucratic decks so that the professionals can do their job and do it quicker. This can all be done following all the environmental laws, but we’ve gotta streamline the timelines -- we have to get to work here as soon as the flames are out and the basic work is done… Too often on our federal lands, the process is such that it could take a year or two, and by that point you’ve lost the value of the timber. And so you lose the financial resource that we need to be able to pay for the restoration work.”

Jim Pena, the Region 6 Regional Forester with the U.S. Forest Service, added:

“You heard people talk about the concern about impacts to salmon, impacts to water quality, the road system in there, the trail system -- those are all things we’re looking at in order to restore the fire area.”

Michelle Lang, the conservation director for Friends of the Columbia Gorge, pushed back against salvage logging plans:

“For more than 100 years we have protected this region from logging. It has experienced wildfire in the past and will in the future. Salvage logging can be very destructive and has no place on public lands in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area or the Hatfield Wilderness Area.”


Of NoteThe Eagle Creek Fire was started on September 2, 2017 by a teenager with fireworks in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in Oregon. It grew to 3,000 acres overnight, forced the closure of Interstate 84 on September 4, and by the next morning had surpassed 20,000 acres. As of September 12, the fire is 35,588 acres and 11 percent contained and I-84 remains closed.

Since it began, the U.S. Forest Service has had to warn eager volunteers in Oregon and Washington against trying to replant the forest on their own. Spokeswoman Shandra Terry told the Statesman Journal:

“There’s a possibility they could be introducing non-native species to the Gorge, they could actually be doing more damage than actually restoring eco-systems in the Gorge.”

A 2016 Forest Service study concluded that “disturbance associated with high-severity wildfire may present a bigger threat than the disturbance associated with salvage logging.” It also questioned whether modest losses in shrub cover due to salvage logging could have been mitigated by salvaging more rapidly, rather than 13-14 months after the wildfire when plants had germinated. The study concluded, pointing to previous research conducted over the last decade with similar findings:

“If future studies continue to not find strong longer-term salvage harvest effects on forest understory vegetation, the debates about pros and cons of postfire management could then narrow to variables such as snag habitat and fuel loading that are unequivocally impacted by salvage harvest.”

Former President Ronald Reagan made the Columbia River Gorge the nation’s second national scenic area in 1986 to “protect and enhance the scenic, cultural, recreational, and natural resources of the Columbia River Gorge.” There are nine national scenic areas, with the Columbia River Gorge joining California’s Mono Basin National Forest as the only west of Michigan.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: DaveAlan / iStock)

AKA

Scenic Columbia Gorge Restoration Act of 2017

Official Title

To expedite salvage and reforestation projects in the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area and other National Scenic Areas in response to certain catastrophic events, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Agriculture
      Conservation and Forestry
      National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands
      Committee on Natural Resources
    IntroducedSeptember 8th, 2017
    Absolutely. Lowering the regulatory burdens on salvage logging means lowering the cost of the logging industry, which translates to lower market prices for all wood products. I understand the negative aspects of salvage logging, but in this case, I see more value in providing lower costs and quicker times for logging than preserving desolated forests.
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    While some wildfires are human caused, wildfires are a natural part of the ecosystem, and the ecosystem should build itself up naturally after disasters such as these. The life cycle of nature doesn't need our help all the time; this is one of those times.
    Like (101)
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    After reading the details of this bill it seems like another shady attempt to allow logging in protected areas and justify it by using natural disasters as an excuse.
    Like (76)
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    Less than 10% of the fires in our national fires are started by humans, forest fires are a natural part of the life cycle of a forest and so is the debris left behind after the fire occurs. The fire removes underbrush, dead trees and promulgates new growth. Some plants only release seeds as result of fire. Carbon resulting from the fire enriches the soil. Fire makes the forest in many ways healthier. Cleaning up the forest after a fire may be a way that some see as making the forested lands static and unchanging but forest do change over time. The suggestion of cleaning up after a fire also smacks of this Administrations way of opening our national parks to logging and I've seen that. Industrial logging is decimation on a level that fires don't approach. Fire is a renewable event and occurs in nature without humans. Logging is a scar that we leave behind that take a decade or more for the land to recover. If we want quick recovery leave the forest alone they'll fix themselves without the erosion and human destruction.
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    The forests survived for thousands of years without human intervention. It will take care of itself. Salvage logging can be very destructive to the environment and shouldn’t be permitted in national scenic areas following wildfires.
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    This seems dangerous, and overbroad. From what I've read, the main concern the proposer of this bill has is that they won't be able to make any money off the fallen trees (which he calls simply "timber"), and so won't have the money they might have had to throw into financing the reforestation. I think the bill has the possible consequence of giving destructive logging in these areas the cover of legality. I think it might be a better move for the EPA, in this particular case of Eagle Creek, if warranted, to give a temporary pass to the salvage loggers, instead of passing a law that could ultimately be abused, to do an end-run around the EPA. Also, better, more secure funding for cleanup that doesn't rely on timber profits would probably do a lot to expedite reforestation efforts. Why not increase EPA funding?
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    Not as written. Yes, quick recovery and expedited timelines are needed before value is lost, but making all catastrophic events regardless of cause eligible provides too much incentive for human causes.
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    This bill should actually accurately be named another land grab for logging profit. Since forest fires are part of the natural cycle and healthy forests depend on the natural cycle of burn/regrowth/burn has worked since mother earth began. Do not give away more rights and more land to the wealthy few. No.
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    The logging companies would take this too far.
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    Forest fires are natures way of clearing the old to promote healthy new growth and while they may be unsightly it's part of the forest life cycle. Certain plants/trees will only release seeds when there is a fire. Any salvage logging can be very destructive to the environment and shouldn’t be permitted in national scenic areas following wildfires.
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    On the surface, this appears a great idea- to assure reforestation. However, underneath is a back door to benefit the logging industry. Sorry, but, it's been clearly evinced that "business" is always more important than the environment to Trump and the GOP Majority. The next generation needs protection from such a priority!
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    Salvage logging can be very destructive to the environment and shouldn’t be permitted in national scenic areas following wildfires.
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    Sounds like an opportunity for greedy logging companies to have their way. Nay
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    Not as written. Another "spin" on title language to allow corporate profits on areas that are supposed to be for all through the Public Trust Doctrine. Please vote, No.
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    Although allowing fires to remain in the ecosystem is important, i am concerned that the timber industry would become greedy.
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    This has special interests written all over it and is clearly a false flag that pretends to be helping when it fact it's obvious on the face of it that it would actually harm more than help; why do congressional republicans never fail to try to make money off the misfortunes of others and to manipulate national disasters? Shame
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    Don't you love bills that imply one thing with the title but mean the exact opposite? Logging the forest when the decomposition of the burnt parts feed new growth, means there will be less new growth. Stop trying to make rich industries richer at the expense of the environment!
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    Nope. Just one more way for lumber companies to get in and make a profit. Wildfires are part of nature and are necessary for the healthy growth and renewal of forests. In some instances the dead wood is all that's standing between the snowmelt and rain and massive flooding and mudslides. Don't support this bill.
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    Another attempt to provide more logging rights to protected areas. These are all shams of legislation, why not ask the public whether we want our parks removed.
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    Let the forest heal on its own. It will grow back healthier than it was before. Fires are natural.
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