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US House approves bill to increase logging in national forests

The US House of Representatives on Friday approved a bill [text] that would significantly increase the amount of logging in national forests. The bill's supporters claim [AP report] the measure would both create more jobs and help reduce wildfires in the Western US. The bill provides that the Secretary of Agriculture will establish Forest Reserve Revenue Areas where a regulated amount of logging can take place. The Obama Administration [official website] has stated [policy statement; PDF] its opposition to the bill. The administration claims the bill "undermine[s] many important existing public land and environmental laws, rules, and processes." Since the Forest Reserve Revenue Areas cannot be revoked and create an unchanged statutory quota of logging revenue, there is no room for other considerations such as environmental analyses. The bill is not likely to pass in the Senate and will likely be vetoed by President Obama should it pass.

Regulation of national forests continues to be debated. This has increased since wildfires in Western states escalate due, in part, to overcrowded forests. In October 2011, The US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website] unanimously ruled [JURIST report] to reinstate the Roadless Rule, blocking road-building and commercial timber harvesting on expanses of roadless areas around the country, primarily the National Forests. That February, a federal court upheld [JURIST report] Idaho's own roadless rule despite environmental group's objections. One year before, a federal judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] granted summary judgment [JURIST report] for the National Forest Service (NFS) [official website], upholding an agreement limiting the amount of timber that can be harvested in Alaska's Tongass National Forest.The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] in 2009 affirmed a district court ruling reinstating the Roadless Rule [JURIST report], a decision analyzed [JURIST op-ed] by JURIST Hotline contributor Mike Dubrasich, Executive Director of the Western Institute for Study of the Environment [advocacy website].

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