When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in March in favor of the timber industry on a key logging roads case, the decision was rightfully hailed by advocates of working forests.
But unlike many other issues, the question of whether logging roads are “point sources” of stormwater pollution did not end with the Supreme Court’s ruling. Despite losing in the highest court in the land, environmental groups vowed they would still challenge logging projects on the logging roads issue.
The Supreme Court and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had all sided with the timber industry, saying that logging roads were not point sources of pollution. Which meant there was just one final party that needed to weigh in to stop any possibility of legal challenges: Congress.
Enter a bipartisan group of legislators, led by lead sponsors Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash.; Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.; Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the head of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Their bill, the Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act (first introduced in 2011), would reaffirm the EPA’s policy that logging roads are not point sources of pollution. The legislation was reintroduced in May and just last week, the House approved the bill. The legislation was added to a much larger Farm Bill that was approved on a 216-208 vote.
Herrera Beutler, who has long been a strong advocate for rural communities, said the House’s move was an important step:
“Our working forests are so critical to the livelihoods and communities of Southwest Washington, so I’m very pleased that our ‘forest roads’ initiative was approved in the House today. For nearly 40 years the EPA has used sound science and a common sense approach when it comes to forest roads regulations—and my bill allows this approach to continue. We are getting closer and closer to putting this job-saving solution into law once and for all.”
The issue, however, is far from over. The Senate, controlled by the Democrats, still has to take up the legislation, and it will likely get tied up in the contentious debate over the Farm Bill. Certainly Sen. Wyden’s powerful position as the head of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will help.
But the senators need to know about the importance of the logging roads bill to forest land owners and rural communites across the country. Contact your state’s U.S. senators today and let them know how you feel.