Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 20, 2017


Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495,

Rep. Walden Exploits Columbia Gorge Fires to Weaken Environmental Laws

Bill Would Nullify Safeguards in National Scenic Areas

WASHINGTON— U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) has introduced legislation in Congress that would waive environmental laws in federally designated “national scenic areas” if they’re affected by an event like the recent fires in the Columbia River Gorge.

Under the proposed legislation, U.S. Forest Service restoration activities up to 10,000 acres in size would be exempt from environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act. Judicial review of those actions would be curtailed.    

“This is a cynical bill, even for Representative Walden,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We don’t need to throw the environment or public input under the bus to protect the Columbia River Gorge. This totally unnecessary bill is another deceptive attempt to dismantle our core environmental laws.”

Federal agencies already have procedures in place to facilitate expedited environmental reviews for responding to fires or other natural events. The Council on Environmental Quality’s regulations that implement NEPA already contain procedures for emergencies, as does the Endangered Species Act. However, these procedures preserve basic safeguards ensuring agencies do not overlook harm to the environment when they respond to emergencies.

In contrast Rep. Walden’s legislation would exclude areas up to 10,000 acres from public input and review of alternatives under NEPA if there is a catastrophic event. The legislation defines a “catastrophic event” so broadly that it would cover virtually any fire or weather event regardless of severity or size.

“This bill is just a thinly veiled attempt to allow salvage logging in precious national scenic areas like the Columbia River Gorge under the guise of restoration,” Greenwald said. “Salvage logging is a highly destructive practice that was discredited as a needed or beneficial practice by the scientific community decades ago.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

More press releases