House backs Doc Hastings logging bill

WASHINGTON — The Republican-controlled House Friday approved a bill to sharply increase logging in national forests — a measure the GOP said would create jobs in rural communities and help reduce wildfires that have devastated the West.

The bill also would add hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from new timber sales while reviving an industry that has shed tens of thousands of jobs in the past three decades.

Opponents called the bill a giveaway to the timber industry and said it would harm water quality and habitat for fish and wildlife and jeopardize recreation areas that have become a major source of jobs in national forests.

The White House has threatened to veto the bill, which was approved on a 244-173 vote. Seventeen Democrats joined 227 Republicans to back the bill. Just one Republican, Rep. Chris Gibson of New York, opposed the bill.

The Obama administration says the measure would jeopardize habitat for endangered species, increase lawsuits and limit the president’s ability to create national monuments.

The bill as passed has little chance of approval in the Democratic-controlled Senate, although senators have not ruled out adoption of a forest management bill.

Keith Chu, a spokesman for Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Wyden “agrees it’s time get the (timber) harvest up, to create more jobs in the woods and make forests healthier.”

Wyden plans to introduce a forest bill this fall, Chu said, but added: “It’s clear that bills that undermine bedrock environmental laws or turn large swaths of federal land over to private ownership cannot pass the Senate or be signed into law by the president.”

The House bill’s sponsor, Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash, said wildfires burned 9.3 million acres last year, while the Forest Service only harvested timber from about 200,000 acres. “We burned 44 times more acres than we’ve managed,” Hastings said. “Imagine the carbon imprint” of those wildfires, which are fed in part by overstocked forests.

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said many rural counties in Oregon and other states “are literally on the brink of bankruptcy sitting next to national forests” where increased timber sales could provide a lifeline.

“They’re choked with smoke, and their economies are choked” by policies that prevent logging, Walden said.

Environmental groups criticized the bill.

“They’re viewing our national forests as big ATM machines that they can just level out to fill county coffers,” said Noah Matson, vice president of Defenders of Wildlife, an environmental group.

Increased logging “is not a sustainable, long-term solution” to economic problems in the rural West, Matson said, adding that an increase in logging jobs could be offset by a decrease in outdoor recreation jobs that have increasingly come to dominate rural Western economies.

The bill includes a provision developed by members of the Oregon delegation to turn over half of federally controlled lands in western Oregon to a state-appointed trust that would manage them for timber production. The other half would be managed for fish and wildlife habitat, including creation of new wilderness areas. The measure also includes a federal subsidy for timber-dependent counties until the logging revenues start to come in.

The bill makes logging a requirement on some public forestland, speeding up the timber sales process and making it more difficult for legal challenges to be filed. If enacted, the bill could again result in clear-cutting of national forests, Matson said, calling that a return to misguided policies that harmed wildlife and the environment for generations.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill would increase revenue from timber sales by about $2 billion over the next 10 years, with a net gain to the government of about $269 million over that period.

More in Local News

Everett district relents on eminent domain moving expenses

Homeowners near Bothell still must be out by April to make way for a planned new high school.

Their grown children died, but state law won’t let them sue

Families are seeking a change in the state’s limiting wrongful-death law.

Officials rule train-pedestrian death an accident

The 37-year-old man was trying to move off the tracks when the train hit him, police say.

Shock from WSU suicide ripples through Snohomish County

Roughly 1 in 10 seniors, sophomores and 8th-graders said they had attempted to take their own lives.

Marysville hit-and-run leaves man with broken bones

The state patrol has asked for help solving an increasing number of hit-and-run cases in the state.

$1,000 reward for info on who killed an eagle near Snohomish

After being shot, the raptor was treated at the Sarvey Wildlife Center but died overnight.

Woman confronts man leaving house with stolen item

“He swung at her with a crowbar, missing her.”

Police seek suspect in Wells Fargo bank robbery

He was described as white, in his 30s, heavyset, with blonde hair and a maroon sweatshirt.

Possible bobcat sighting keeps Snohomish students inside

The creature was spotted on the campus of Valley View Middle School around noon.

Most Read