Newsweek | May 14, 2018
By Nicole Goodkind
A new Republican piece of legislation will threaten about 58.5 million acres, or 91,000 square miles, of protected forest land, environmental activists say.
The Farm Bill, an all-encompassing multi-year piece of legislation that directs what happens at the Department of Agriculture, has gained attention for its proposed overhaul to the food stamp program. While it is typically written with input from both sides of the aisle and passed along bipartisan lines, that’s not the case this year. Critics argue that this year has been unusually partisan and that parts of the new bill come straight from Republican Representative Bruce Westerman’s Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017, which worked to ease anti-logging regulations and reduce environmental review processes for logging and construction.
These provisions threaten to eliminate the roadless rule, which prohibits most commercial logging and activity through vast swaths of American forest land and preserves them as habitats for threatened species and areas of recreation. Advocates argue that preventing deforestation in these areas protects drinking water for millions of Americans, prevents dangerous mudslides, and can help mitigate the effects of climate change. Some critics argue that having so many trees so close increases the chance of long-burning forest fires, but the large trees found in these areas tend not to burn and catch fire as quickly, and can often mitigate fires.
In 2016, then-former Agriculture Undersecretary Robert Bonnie wrote that “strong protections of these vital natural areas are an important climate adaptation strategy as roadless areas provide critical refuges for wildlife in a warming climate and protect headwaters that provide…drinking water.”