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For Immediate Release, March 22, 2011

Contact: Todd Schulke, (575) 574-5962

New House Bill Would Exempt National Forest Logging From Environmental Laws

SILVER CITY, N.M.— Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) announced legislation today — HR 1202, introduced late last week — that would exempt national forest timber cutting from all environmental laws. The bill would also require federal agencies to physically remove threatened Mexican spotted owls from their natural habitat and condemn them to so-called “sanctuaries.”

“Congressman Pearce is well-known for his outrageous anti-environmental views, but this stunt really takes the cake,” said Todd Schulke, a forest policy analyst at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This bill would sweep away decades of environmental protection, including the Endangered Species Act, as well as force the Mexican spotted owl into internment camps that Pearce calls sanctuaries.”

It’s currently unclear whether Pearce’s bill would apply to only forests where Mexican spotted owls live or more broadly to all national forests, in the Southwest and beyond.

Southwestern logging and the jobs it supported crashed in the mid-1990s due to market forces, mechanization of the industry and increased environmental protections. Since then there has been growing recognition of the need for forest restoration to safely reintroduce natural fire regimes, improve degraded wildlife habitat and facilitate community protection. Environmental groups such as the Center have worked closely with the U.S. Forest Service and community groups, through efforts like the Collaborative Forest Restoration Program, to establish restoration projects and community-based businesses to help implement them.

“Congressman Pearce is hopelessly out of touch. There are a number of small forest-restoration businesses in communities he represents like Ruidoso, Silver City and Reserve. These businesses are already employing people and getting good restoration work done in the woods. The congressman should be looking for ways to support these people and that work rather than creating a new government program that promises failure,” said Schulke.

The Mexican spotted owl was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1993 as a result of habitat damage caused by decades of old-growth liquidation on federal forests in Arizona and New Mexico. The owl needs cool, dense southwestern forests, dominated by large trees, to survive.

To learn more about the Mexican spotted owl, click here.
To read a copy of Pearce’s proposed logging legislation, click here.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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