WASHINGTON― Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) introduced legislation yesterday that would fast-track unsustainable logging, increase wildfire risk and jeopardize community safety. The measure stands in stark contrast to sensible, science-based legislation sponsored by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), which would help communities in fire-prone areas without backcountry logging.
The Feinstein-Daines bill, the Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act of 2020, would limit environmental, judicial and public review requirements. Among other things the bill requires extensive logging, allows for truncated environmental review procedures for millions of acres of harmful logging projects, and sidesteps procedures to protect imperiled species.
“This legislation is a wish list from the timber industry, and would create more controversy and legal uncertainty,” said Susan Jane Brown of the Western Environmental Law Center. “The Feinstein-Daines bill will further undermine public trust in the credibility of the federal land management agencies, which is already at an all-time low.”
“This bill shows a fundamental lack of understanding about wildfires and how to best protect communities,” said Randi Spivak, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s public lands program. “Many recent wildlands fires in California burned through actively managed lands or occurred on nonfederal grass and shrublands. This bill is a knee-jerk reaction that defies science and will cause more harm than good.”
“This bill fails to meet the urgent need to create fire-safe communities, yet it’s full of giveaways to logging interests,” said Kirin Kennedy with the Sierra Club. “It will undermine strong forest management even as science clearly shows that healthy forests are the foundation of fire safety and key to helping combat the climate crisis that is already escalating fire seasons.”
“This bill is a disaster for anyone who cares deeply about protecting the best tools we have in the fight against climate change — our forests,” said Blaine Miller-McFeeley of Earthjustice. “It would eliminate bedrock protections that ensure people have a say in decisions affecting their homes, their communities and their safety. Instead of allowing this legislation to move forward, lawmakers should consider Senator Harris’s more practical alternative, which will actually help protect our communities from wildfires.”
“This bill not only takes an ax to the safeguards that lead to smarter forest management and community safety, it succumbs to the myth that protecting wildlife is somehow incompatible with forest health,” said Lauren McCain of Defenders of Wildlife. “The indiscriminate logging that his bill enables puts hundreds of imperiled wildlife species that depend on America’s forests for their survival at risk with no clear public benefit.”
“The ink is barely dry on the Trump administration’s illegal attempt to dismantle the National Environmental Policy Act, and now comes this new attack on the bedrock environmental protection law,” said Amy McNamara, Northern Rockies director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Now, more than ever, it is critical that local communities have a voice in how their natural resources are managed.”
In November 2019 Harris introduced S.2882, the Wildfire Defense Act, which authorized $1 billion per year to create a grant program for communities to develop “Community Wildfire Defense Plans” to improve community safety, retrofit critical infrastructure and homes, and apply “defensible space” to create a buffer between communities and the forest. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) introduced a companion bill, H.R. 5091, in the House of Representatives.