Energy & Environment

Zinke: House farm bill would save ‘forests and lives,’ create logging jobs

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Monday again called for Congress to enact more aggressive forest management policies included in the House-passed farm bill, saying they could save forests and lives and create jobs in the logging industry.

An opinion piece by Zinke published on CNN largely aligned with what he told reporters last week, although he did not blame “radical environmentalists” for the wildfires in California.

Zinke also did not directly mention climate change, which his critics say is a primary factor making wildfires worse.

{mosads}“California is a tinderbox. The ongoing drought, warm temperatures, insect infestations, poor forest management, continued residential and commercial expansion in the wildland-urban interface and other factors have made the western United States more prone to fire,” Zinke wrote.

Zinke and the Trump administration want Congress to approve measures in a farm bill passed this year in the House, which would give the Interior Department and the Forest Service new authority to clear risky biomass like dead trees and brush from forests.

The controversial measures include new exemptions from environmental review for many forest thinning practices, reducing barriers to removing wood after fires and making it easier to build roads through federal land in the name of forest management.

“Now Congress has the opportunity to pass good policy that saves forests and lives by including House-passed proposals for forest management in the Farm Bill,” he wrote.

Zinke said such policies would help the environment, save lives and help the logging industry, among other benefits.

“Logs typically come out of the forest in one of two ways: they are either harvested as timber to sustainably improve the health and resiliency of the forest (while creating jobs), or they are burned to the ground,” he said. “Jobs matter, and the timber industry has long been a cornerstone of rural economies. Fortunately, these economic benefits go hand in hand with our goal of healthy forests.”

But he also accused his opponents of characterizing forest management as “clear-cutting or large-scale logging,” which isn’t necessarily the case, he said.

Lawmakers from the House and Senate are negotiating toward a final farm bill that could pass both chambers and get President Trump’s signature. The Senate’s bill had none of the controversial forestry policies.

Tags Donald Trump Ryan Zinke

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