National Forest Management Act

Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003

Read SAFC’s official comments to the Forest Service [.pdf]

Legal Analysis of Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003

by Wildlaw

The so-called “Healthy Forests Restoration Act,” HR 1904, is a seriously flawed legislation that was introduced as a way to address fires in the west. Instead it would open up our finely grained eastern forests to a western mode of management. In addition it:

• allows 1,000 acre insect projects anywhere to be categorically excluded from environmental review,

• provides $125 million in additional subsides to the biomass industry,

• does nothing to protect communities from fire,

• guts the National Environmental Policy Act,

• repeals the 1993 Appeals Reform Act, and

• rigs the courts to rule in favor of the agencies for all hazardous fuels reduction projects.

See why HFRA fails to address fire in our Eastern forests. [.pdf]
Read why HFRA may increase Southern Pine Beetle infestations
See a comprehensive HR1904 spread sheet [.pdf]

The “Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003″ will:

• Not Ensure Any Increased Protection for Communities: HR 1904 does not include any specific measures to protect homes or communities. It is also inconsistent with the Western Governors’ Association 10-Year Comprehensive Strategy, which does not call for any changes in existing laws. The only proven method to protect homes and communities is to reduce flammable materials in the immediate vicinity of structures, yet the sham definitions in H.R. 1904 would not require any activities to be near homes. Instead, the Act further subsidize the timber industry and eliminate obstacles to logging large, fire-resistant trees miles away from the nearest home. The country’s top forest scientists, including the Forest Service’s own scientists, have found that this kind of logging can actually increase fire risk and make fires larger and more intense. Read more about fire in roadless areas.

 Cut the Heart out of NEPA. HR 1904 allows the Forest Service to conduct large-scale, environmentally damaging logging projects without considering any alternatives, including the “no action” alternative or their relative environmental impacts.

• Remove the Public from the Process. HR 1904 eliminates the statutory right of citizens to appeal Forest Service logging projects.

• Interfere with the Independent Judiciary. HR 1904 seeks to restrict a core principle of our democracy — the right of Americans to seek redress in the court for grievances involving the federal government. The Act limits preliminary injunctive relief to 45 days, and forces any U.S court to render a final decision on the merits of a case within 100 days. Finally, the Act has an astounding change in American legal standards by requiring courts to give deference to agency findings regarding the balance of harms in deciding whether to enter a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, or a permanent injunction in ANY court challenge where the agency claims the action is necessary to “restore fire-adapted forest or rangelands ecosystems.”

• Create New Insect Categorical Exclusion. HR 1904 creates a new Categorical Exclusion from the National Environmental Policy Act on all Department of Interior and Forest Service lands by authorizing an unlimited number of projects (up to 1,000 acres each) for all lands that the agencies claim are at risk of infestation by certain insects. Read more about the Southern Pine Beetle in the East.

• Provide New Logging Subsidies. HR 1904 would authorize $125 million in subsidies to the biomass industry to log our National Forests.