Statement on Trump Administration proposal to increase categorical exclusions on national forests

Statement on Trump Administration proposal to increase categorical exclusions on national forests

ConservationNWAdmin / Jun 13, 2019 / Forest Field Program, Protecting Wildlands, Wildfire

Instead of fast-tracking risky logging projects, the U.S. Forest Service should double-down on investments in collaboration.

Limiting public input and environmental review is the wrong way to restore the health and resilience of our national forests. Decades of old-growth logging, fire suppression and poor forest management have created unhealthy forests prone to severe wildfires. While we need to increase the efficiency of scientifically-sound restoration efforts, we can’t blindly log our way out of this problem!

Our Forest Field Program staff and partners on a field tour. Forest collaboratives support both healthy forests and local economies.

Carefully-designed restoration forestry and prescribed burning can restore a forest’s ecological resilience to natural disturbance, improve wildlife habitat and reduce uncharacteristic fires—but only if done to the highest standards. Science shows forests managed for industrial timber production actually burn more severely than healthy, natural forests. Shortcuts to the National Environmental Policy Act planning process risk creating projects that do more harm than good.

In this context, we’re skeptical of the Trump Administration’s recent proposal for the U.S. Forest Service to increase large-scale categorical exclusions, a way to exempt national forest logging projects from thorough environmental, scientific, and public review.

Instead of fast-tracking risky logging projects, the Forest Service should double-down on investments in collaboration, landscape diagnostics, and old forest protections. Through the North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative, of which we’re a member group, Washington’s Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest has improved planning methods and reduced timelines for project implementation without cutting environmental review or public input.

Quality investments yield quality results. We encourage the Forest Service to work with local communities, conservation and recreation interests to improve the health of our Western forests!

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A view of the Colville National Forest in northeast Washington. Photo: Eric Zamora