Legislation that would greatly increase logging on public land in the Pacific Northwest is on a list of this week's priorities released by U.S. House Republican leaders, and it could have far-reaching effects for California. The bill, HR 1526, includes several options to cut more timber to make money for economically-depressed rural counties, primarily in Oregon.
However, according to Noah Matson, vice president for Climate Change and Natural Resources Adaptation at the group Defenders of Wildlife, it sets a dangerous precedent by making timber sales the goal and exempting large portions of public land from such federal environmental laws as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.
Matson points out that clear-cutting and its effects on the environment and wildlife are what prompted limits on logging 20 years ago. But sponsors of the bill say the land that would be logged in Oregon was meant for sustained timber yield when it was given to the state in the 1930s, and that today, the counties where the land is located desperately need the income.
If more timber is harvested in Oregon, adds Matson, it puts a greater burden on California and other neighboring states to meet the federal conservation requirements to keep endangered species alive. And he thinks there's been too much focus on feeding logs to the timber industry, and not enough on the related costs for taxpayers.
"Congressmen don't seem to understand it costs money to log. It costs the government money to run these timber sales," he said. "To mandate a certain level of cut, you have to appropriate more money to do that -- and it's just not going to happen in the fiscal climate."
HR 1526 is in the House Rules Committee this week, the final stop before heading to the floor for a vote.