Logging roads bill needs push over the top


The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June to take the Ninth Circuit logging roads case was great news, but it wasn’t the whole story. Even if the Supreme Court knocks down the Ninth Circuit ruling, the high court’s decision won’t come until sometime next year. In the meantime, a temporary stay on the Ninth Circuit ruling, approved by Congress last year, expires Sept. 30.

In other words, between Sept. 30 and a Supreme Court decision next year, the Ninth Circuit ruling declaring all logging roads as “point sources” of water pollution would be the law of the land. This would leave forest owners across the West vulnerable to lawsuits and legal uncertainty.

Enter legislation sponsored by Reps. Jamie Herrera Buetler (R-Wash.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.). The bill would permanently overturn the Ninth Circuit decision, and it was passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this week.

A similar bill In the U.S. Senate, sponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) is in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

The National Alliance of Forest Owners weighed in on the House committee’s decision this week.

“We thank the Committee for its bipartisan leadership on legislation providing legal certainty for private forest owners that provide millions of jobs and environmental benefits, like clean water, to communities across America,” said Dave Tenny, NAFO President and CEO. “The Committee’s action is an affirmative step forward to preserve a very successful EPA policy by fixing a Ninth Circuit ruling that was clearly wrong.

The Vancouver Columbian editorial board said that both the House and Senate should approve the bill.

Almost any rational Congress would expedite this forest roads bill to approval and rush it to the president for signature. Unfortunately, this Congress has strapped itself in a partisan strait jacket that permits limited, if any, public service.

Perhaps later this year or early next year, Congress will come to its senses and stop the 9th Circuit from trying to manage forest roads. The timber industry and the EPA already do a fine job working together on that stewardship.

Congress needs to hear from supporters about why the legislation should be approved. To contact your representative and senators, go here.

For forest owners in Washington State, the state Department of Natural Resources is looking for owners interested in the Rivers and Habitat Open Space Program. The program “buys conservation easements. Two types of habitat can qualify for easements: trees within a channel migration zone and trees within critical habitat for state-listed threatened and endangered species (like northern spotted owls and marbled murrelets) in upland areas.”

The program does not currently have funding, but DNR is looking for forest owners who are interested in signing up to help show the Legislature that the program should be funded next year. Go here for more information.