House Republicans have a cunning plan for tackling the wildfires that have been ravaging the American West this fire season: They want to allow loggers to haul away the trees before they burn.
No forests means no forest fires, see?
The Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act was approved mostly along party lines by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Friday. The bill would more than double logging nationwide and turn some forestlands into pasturelands.
But the bill will never become law. President Obama has vowed to veto it if it ever reaches his desk.
It’s not that it’s a bad idea to reduce fuel in the nation’s forests to help preempt wildfires. By taking a hard-line approach to fighting every wildfire, Americans have inadvertently created unnaturally incendiary conditions. Leaf litter, woody detritus, and dense stands of trees that would be cleared out by frequent fires build up, then explode into infernos. Meanwhile, scores of small trees that flourish in the absence of regular fires can damage ecosystems and hog water.
But this bill is a public giveaway to private logging interests masquerading as a fire-prevention effort. From the L.A. Times:
Republicans portrayed the bill as a jobs measure that would prop up the economies of rural counties, which would receive a fourth of the money from timber sales to help fund schools and other services.
Democrats said the bill would allow logging and road building in areas now without roads and sharply curtail public review of proposed timber-cutting projects.
Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., called the measure “overreaching,” saying it would impose mandatory production quotas for timber.
“I wish our Republican friends were more serious about funding the Forest Service and its fuel load reduction programs,” he said in an interview. “They have slashed funding year after year, even as we’ve had more severe wildfires every year.”
The National Wildlife Federation Action Fund warned that the bill would “prioritize cutting down trees above everything else – including the black bears and other wildlife that depend on forests for their food, shelter and clean water to drink.”
If Republicans were serious about taking a proactive approach to addressing the burning issue of wildfires in America, they would do something about global warming, which is helping to stoke the flames.