WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators for Idaho Jim Risch and Mike Crapo introduced legislation to remove a roadblock to responsible forest management efforts on federal lands.
The bill, which was led by U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.), will provide a legislative fix to the misguided Cottonwood Environmental Law Center v. United States Forest Service (Cottonwood) lawsuit which has tied up forest management projects. If enacted, the Forest Service would no longer be required to reinitiate consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service on ready-to-go land management projects every time “new information” emerges about potential effects on endangered species. There has been widespread criticism of the broad scope of the litigation, with stakeholders and conservation groups expressing concerns about Cottonwood’s crippling effect on responsible forest management.
“Actively managing our forests is the best way to guard against catastrophic wildfire, protect water quality, and provide healthy habitats for fish and wildlife. However, unnecessary activist litigation has disrupted the progress we are making toward more active forest management while creating little if any tangible conservation benefit,” said Risch. “This legislation will deliver relief to communities who have been adversely impacted by the misguided Cottonwood decision, and I am proud to help lead this effort to restore Idaho forest health and productivity.”
“In Idaho, the crippling Cottonwood decision has slowed down the process for vegetation management projects on Forest Service lands. It has put timber workers out of work and has contributed to an increase in more severe wildfires in the region,” said Crapo. “The fix would eliminate red tape and protect forest management projects from unnecessary and overly burdensome litigation.”
To read the bill text, click here.
Background: In 2015, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled in Cottonwood that the U.S. Forest Service needed to reinitiate consultation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the programmatic level following the 2009 designation of critical habitat for the Canada lynx. As a result, courts halted projects during the consultation process throughout the 18 national forests inhabited by lynx. In 2018, a partial legislative fix was achieved, but “new information” claims under the Cottonwood ruling continue to have damaging implications for forests across the West.
This legislation is supported by many across the timber and wildlife community, including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, American Forest Resource Council, Idaho Forest Group, Federal Forest Resource Coalition, American Logging Council, and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.
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