Republicans use wildfires to immunize logging from public influence.

Republican congressionals advance bill that bars public review and lawsuits over logging in our national forests-

One version, Resilient Federal Forests Act, has passed the House and now the U. S. Senate takes up legislation that supporters, overwhelmingly Republican, say will reduce catastrophic wildfires and “streamline” environmental review of logging projects. The legislation will also bar public review and make opponents post heavy bonds if they dare to sue over a logging or wildfire reduction project.

In 1995-6 when Republicans last had a congressional majority, the so-called “lawless logging law was passed.” For about three years timber companies had a complete right to roam and savage the national forests because all the laws to protect the fish, wildlife, and land were waived by Congress when it came to logging. Although cause is not proven, the period just after the lawless logging saw a big increase in Western wildfires.

Needless to say, the Resilient Federal Forests Act is a logging bill using fear of wildfire to pretty much do nothing effective to protect private property or to help reforestation. Whether structures burn or not has nothing to do with logging trees or clearing brush miles away. The proper roofing (e.g., not using wooden shingles) and fire proofing the last hundred yards before the structure make all the difference. This bill does none of this.

Ironically, supporters use the fact of drought as a reason for the bill when many of them are climate change skeptics.

Most people do not understand that the bulk of the national forests are not covered with commercial grade timber. Most acreage is rock, grass, scattered or small trees and brush. The small trees and brush are usually where most of the fire action is, but, of course, it will be ignored because it does not pay to treat it.

The New York Times just did an expose on this logging bill and the efforts to confuse the public about fires and the policies needed. More Logging Won’t Stop Wildfires. By Chad T. Hanson and Dominick A. Dellasala.




  1. Joanne Favazza Avatar
    Joanne Favazza

    So this bill bars citizen lawsuits regarding logging in our national forests? Don’t these lands belong to all of us? And aren’t conservatives always talking about preserving rights and freedoms, and abolishing “big government?” Total hypocrites.

  2. Gary Humbard Avatar
    Gary Humbard

    The vast majority of federal projects that involve logging are NOT proposed for the main purpose of reducing wildfire, but instead are to restore previously logged areas to more natural conditions to benefit plants, aquatic species and wildlife. Anybody with basic knowledge of forestry and ecology knows logging will have minimal impacts regarding wildfire behavior and that weather and in particular wind is what drives fire behavior.

    The politicians are using wildfire as a tool to allow more logging, but in actuality environmental groups are partly responsible for the backlash. Their continued filing of lawsuits on projects far away from communities causes lengthy delays and creates animosities against local communities who depend on federal timber sales.

    As for the comment “the bulk of the national forests are not covered with commercial grade timber. Most acreage is rock, grass, scattered or small trees and brush”, I’m not sure that is an accurate statement. I’m not sure where you got this information but I believe the majority of commercial grade timber in the west is located on national forest land as the majority of private land has been cut at least once and sometimes more.

    One way to reduce the risks and severity of wildfires is the use of “prescribed fire”. Allowing federal agencies to burn within areas of frequent fire such as the chapparal brush fields in California would help but environmental groups have filed lawsuits on the grounds of air pollution. Removing ladder fuels, piling and burning logging slash and reducing fuels along major roads can have minor influences.

    Allowing fires to burn in areas where there are no nearby communities, requiring structures to be fire defensible and strict zoning that restricts rural sprawl (yea big brother) will reduce firefighting costs and danger to wildland firefighters.

    Although there maybe some justifiable litigation, without the constant lawsuits that tie up federal timber sales, I have little doubt this legislation would be proposed.

  3. timz Avatar

    The blaming of environmental groups for the woes of the logging industry is getting tiresome. I know at least a half a dozen loggers who have gotten out and none mention
    that as a reason. They all say the same thing, unless you are a large company there just isn’t any money in it anymore.

  4. al espinosa Avatar
    al espinosa

    This a bad bill that removes any effective accountability for bad management. This is another entitlement program for the timber industry and its obsequious collaborators. It is a return to the past when large timber sales trumped (no pun intended)everything. Fish and wildlife habitats are still trying to recover from this extensive abuse.

  5. Gary Macfarlane Avatar
    Gary Macfarlane

    I routinely look at every proposed sale on the Clearwater and Nez Perce National Forests. I can’t recall one in the past ten years that hasn’t used the phony excuses that logging is the same as restoration and that it is also needed for wildfire prevention. This is in an area where fires tend to naturally be large and stand-replacing.

    This legislation is anti-democratic, anti-science, designed to make the Forest Service less accountable than it is today, and intended to to make logging the dominant use of national forests.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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