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August 5, 2017 - WASHINGTON— Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) introduced legislation on Friday that would devastate America’s national forests by rubberstamping large logging projects and severely limiting public comment and disclosure of environmental damage from unfettered logging.

This bill is similar to Rep. Bruce Westerman’s bill (H.R. 2936), which also aims to significantly limit public input and scientific environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act.

“Senate Republicans seem all too eager to let special interests destroy some of our most vital public lands, wildlife and watersheds,” said Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This bill would return forest management to the dark ages, when reckless logging devastated wildlife, degraded rivers, and ruined recreation opportunities for millions of Americans.”

Among other harmful provisions, Thune’s bill would allow logging projects affecting up to 10,000 acres—15 square miles—to be rushed through without meaningful public involvement or scientific evaluation of potential harm to wildlife and the environment.

Thune, Westerman and other proponents of the bill continue to rely on misinformation that has been discounted by science, in particular that logging is needed to clear beetle-infested trees and prevent wildfires. That assumption has been debunked by studies showing that insect outbreaks do not increase wildfire likelihood, and in fact they can reduce wildfires’ burn severity.

The bill also aims to bar citizen access to the courts to uphold laws protecting national forests by setting up a process that would allow the Interior secretary to arbitrarily decide which projects can sidestep judicial review.

“This is nothing but a timber industry wish list to log national forests for any reason, while deliberately blocking public input,” said Spivak. “Proponents are shamefully playing on the public’s fears to advance their agenda. But the only motivation for this bill is to help logging companies make more money.”

In the first four months of the 115th Congress, Republicans have introduced more than 60 bills attacking public lands, weakening environmental safeguards on those lands, or turning over their control to states and local governments. These attacks come despite the fact that the vast majority of voters across political parties support protecting and maintaining forests, national parks, monuments, and other public lands and waters.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Source: Center for Biological Diversity
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