Lawmakers tackle forest road runoff issue
A bipartisan group of senators and U.S. House members introduced bills Thursday to provide certainty to forestry companies and workers, by reaffirming the Environmental Protection Agency’s 37-year-old policy toward regulation of runoff from forest roads.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Senator Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., introduced the Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act.
The bill would aid efforts to increase timber harvests and forestry jobs by preventing unnecessary litigation on a question that the U.S. Supreme Court settled in the EPA’s favor earlier this year. The bill, like the Supreme Court decision, upholds the EPA’s existing policy, which does not require water discharge permits for forest roads.
Despite the EPA and Supreme Court decisions, however, some groups have promised to continue litigation, which will needlessly delay needed forest restoration work without action by Congress.
Senators Max Baucus, D-Mont., and James Risch, R-Idaho, and Representatives Dan Benishek, R-Mich., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., Nick Rahall, D-W.V., Reid Ribble, R-Wisc., and Mike Simpson, R-Idaho are original cosponsors of the measure.
WYDEN: “We need a healthy timber industry to provide timber jobs and to do the restoration work that ensures healthy forests. The way to do that is to stop litigating questions that have already been answered, and start working together to improve forest management practices. This bill will reaffirm the determination by both EPA and the Supreme Court that forest roads and other silviculture activities are not open to more litigation over water discharge permits under the Clean Water Act.”
CRAPO: “The jobs and economic activities relating to the forest products industry are critical to Idaho and the Pacific Northwest. The decision to change a 37-year-old program that deferred the regulation of logging road runoff to individual states has brought increased hardships causing job losses and jeopardizing our rural communities. This bipartisan legislation will clarify that the Clean Water Act was not intended to regulate stormwater runoff on forest roads and allow the focus of private, state and federal land managers to return to improving forest management.”
HERRERA BEUTLER: “At the heart of our efforts are the moms and dads employed by healthy, working forests – and passing this law will help make sure they have jobs, and will help make our forests healthy. I’m proud to keep working with my colleagues in both parties to solidify a law based on sound science that takes people and their livelihoods into account.”
SCHRADER: “The ability to independently manage our forests in a sustainable and responsible way is crucial to the vitality of Oregon’s rural economies and helps to keep our forests healthy and thriving. The timber industry and EPA have worked together for over three decades to reduce forest roads runoff with much success. The Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act restores the certainty our state and local governments and private forest landowners need to continue managing forestlands using best management practices that have been successful in the past.”
SIMPSON: “I am pleased to once again be part of a broad, bipartisan coalition working to provide needed certainty to an industry that is so important to Idaho and the Northwest. By clearly reinstating EPA’s long-standing policy on forest roads in law, this legislation is a simple but important fix to a misguided and problematic court decision.”
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