Target: Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell
Goal: Stop using loophole to log forests without citizens’ involvement.
The Farm Bill of 2014 was passed with an enormous giveaway hidden in it that undermined our forest legacy. States could exempt the public’s involvement whenever a wooded area, up to 3,000 acres in size, was found to contain insects and other pathogens. Of course, all forest ecosystems naturally contain these species, but the Farm Bill’s vaguely- drawn exemption for ‘declining health’ eliminates all oversight and excludes all public objection leaving no other option than to sue in federal court. By framing naturally-occurring pests as epidemics, this perverse legislation allows logging to be portrayed as saving or restoring the health of our forests when its purpose is to remove all barriers to logging it.
Wildfires, insects and disease occur naturally in our forests and are part of recurring life cycles. However, the Farm Bill of 2014 provided $200 million over 10 years to identify and log any areas identified as in ‘declining health.’ An exceptionally vague phrase, it is open to very broad interpretation. What has been the result? As soon as the Farm Bill was passed, the Governor of Montana proposed five million acres be cleared under the act as a way to create “healthier forests” and provide “certainty to timber mills on the supply of logs.” Nearly every forested state submitted plans to log vast acreage citing “declining forests” and “at risk of epidemic” as reasons.
Completely ignored was a 2010 report by the National Center for Conservation Science and Policy which concluded that the presence of bark beetles did not create a greater danger of fire and that removing trees didn’t keep the beetles from spreading. The report went on to say tax money should not be used to remove trees in remote roadless areas, normally not logged, in the name of protecting the woods from beetles. Instead, cutting new roads into pristine forests threatened much more harm to wildlife, soil, and fisheries than the presence of bugs.
Congressional priorities should strive to preserve our forest legacy, not give it away to loggers. This giveaway should be reversed. All of which is why we need qualified public advocates, Citizen Ombudsmen, representing our interests.
Dear Secretary Jewell,
The Farm Bill of 2014 contained a cleverly crafted giveaway to logging interests under the guise of saving our forests which were suddenly threatened with potential epidemics in virtually every forested state. As a direct result of this law, the Forest Service identified about 46.7 million acres in the National Forest System that are “experiencing or are at risk of experiencing insect and disease infestations.”
In fact, the biggest threat to the well-being of our nation’s forests is the impact from the presence of people. The biggest threats from fungi, insects and invasive plants were all introduced, into a non-native environment, by people. Further, once introduced, potential problems were also all intensified and/or spread by people, including certain forest management practices.
The Farm Bill of 2014 completely disenfranchised the American people from their much-touted legacy by removing their ability to even comment on any proposed cut up to 3,000 acres, as long as the proponent could claim “declining health,” a shamefully vague and virtually meaningless phrase.
What really happened is that, threatened with the loss of the Food Stamp program and milk subsidies that would have quadrupled the price of milk, America’s forest legacy was held hostage to corporate interests and paid the political price of passing the Farm Bill. You should be fighting for this to be reserved.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Frank Robey