Infrastructure spending should not facilitate sawing down our National Forests

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The already-enacted bipartisan infrastructure bill allocated billions of dollars to facilitate logging in our national forests, with scant public awareness of those provisions. The House-passed Build Back Better bill contains similar sections. 

Over 200 U.S. climate scientists and ecologists oppose those logging provisions.

As negotiations resume, lawmakers could achieve compromise by excluding sections providing billions more for “restoration,” “fuel reduction,” “forest health,” and other euphemisms for commercial logging.

Removing those provisions would free up money to extend the child tax credit, which families have been putting back into the economy through buying food, gas, toilet paper, medicines, and shoes for growing children, among other necessities. 

But the cost of logging on public land is not just money. Logging releases more than 723 million tons of carbon a year, which accelerates climate change and destroys wildlife habitat, which hastens the extinction of species.

Large timber corporations have already put a lot of independent lumberjacks and jills out of business with mechanized logging that typically leaves clear cuts and slash (what’s left after they haul away the profitable parts of a tree). Clear cuts are abhorrent year-round, but in fire season they’re tinderboxes. In other cases, mature, fire-resistant trees are removed by the thousands under the deceptive guise of “thinning” — another euphemism for commercial logging.

The good news is that we have a defense against deforestation and forest degradation: large-scale designated wilderness, where logging isn’t allowed.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) are the lead sponsors of the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA, pronounced ner-EE-pa), H.R.1755 and S.1276.

NREPA would protect more public land in the lower 48 than any other currently proposed legislation, designating approximately 23 million acres as wilderness through the Wilderness Act of 1964. NREPA would protect headwaters on both sides of the Continental Divide by protecting mature evergreens that shade snow at high elevations and keep water from flowing down too early in the spring. Moreover, this important legislation was cited as a climate solution on page 430 of a House Report titled “Solving the Climate Crisis.”

And NREPA won’t cost anything. In fact, it will save money. 

Question: How can the United States credibly ask other nations to stop deforestation and forest degradation when we not only allow logging in our national forests but also subsidize it?

Answer: “It’s hard.”

Tell me about it. I’ve been advocating for the provisions in NREPA for 31 years.

As we and our fellow citizens suffer from increasingly devastating weather events, lawmakers in both parties need to cooperate and send NREPA to President Biden’s desk forthwith.

Rather than providing billions more for multi-national timber corporations to mow down vast swaths of our national forests under the guise of “restoration” and other euphemisms, let’s allocate that money in the Build Back Better bill to help families and grow the economy.

I know. Changing direction is difficult. But we, the public, are counting on you, our lawmakers, to rise to the moment.

Carole King is a singer, songwriter, author and environmentalist. A 44-year resident of Idaho, she has advocated for the passage of the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act for over three decades. Follow her on Twitter @Carole_King and on Instagram @carole_king. Her Facebook is: https://www.facebook.com/CaroleKing

Tags Biden infrastructure bill bipartisan infrastructure bill Build Back Better Act Carolyn Maloney Clearcutting Deforestation Environmental Issue Environmentalism Forest management Forest pathology Forestry Infrastructure spending Joe Biden logging Natural environment Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act Sheldon Whitehouse

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