By DEBORAH COURSON SMITH
Big Sky Connection
HELENA – It might save the government some money – but it won’t do anything to quell the controversy over logging in the national forests.
That’s what the Congressional Budget Office says about legislation (H.R. 1526) from Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington state to more than double timber harvest on public lands.
Rep. Steve Daines of Montana is a co-sponsor.
Noah Matson, vice president for Climate Change and Natural Resources Adaptation with the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife, says it would come at the expense of water quality, fish and wildlife habitat and recreation.
“They’re viewing our national forests as big ATM machines, that they can just level out to fill county coffers,” he says. “It’s not a sustainable, long-term solution. It’ll probably create a lot more problems.”
The CBO report estimates that the bill would mean $2 billion in additional timber sales over the next 10 years.
But at the same time, the report estimates that counties would actually receive less government money than they do now.
H.R. 1526 has been in the House Rules Committee this week, the final stop before heading to the floor for a vote.
The bill makes logging a requirement on some public forestland, speeding up the timber sales process and making it more difficult to challenge.
Matson predicts that clear-cutting would be likely under this proposal – although that’s what prompted limits on logging 20 years ago, for its effects on the environment and wildlife.
“There’s no way to achieve the level of cut that they’re proposing, and there’s a reason that most of them waive in some form environmental laws to achieve their timber-cut objectives,” Matson maintains. “So, as shocking as it is to the public, the end result of these proposals would be increased clear-cuts.”