Jaime Herrera Beutler Introduces Forest Roads Protection Legislation
Bipartisan bill protects thousands of Southwest Washington’s forest industry jobs, preserves 35 years of Clean Water Act protection
Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-OR) today introduced a “forest roads protection” bill – legislation that will codify the Environmental Protection Agency’s historical treatment of roads on private forest lands as “nonpoint” pollution sources that do not require additional permits.Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-OR) today introduced a “forest roads protection” bill – legislation that will codify the Environmental Protection Agency’s historical treatment of roads on private forest lands as “nonpoint” pollution sources that do not require additional permits. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) are concurrently introducing this legislation within the U.S. Senate.
A recent court decision reclassifies forest roads, treating them the same as factories and industrial parking lots in terms of pollution sources. This court ruling reverses 35 years of Clean Water Act regulation of forest roads. Under this court ruling, for the first time ever private forest land owners would be forced to obtain a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit for roads on their land. This bipartisan bill would restore the 35 year precedent and eliminate the extra permit requirement, allowing states to ultimately regulate forest roads. In Washington state, forest land owners must already comply with the Forests and Fish law, widely considered one of the toughest environmental protection laws in the nation.
The legislation was applauded by small business, labor, and employers throughout the forest product and forest product-related industries. Private forest lands in Washington state are responsible for more than 110,300 jobs and provide $4.9 billion to the nation’s economy.
“I commend the bi-partisan, bi-cameral group of members led by Congresswoman Herrera Beutler and others for reinstating a sensible and effective 35 year program for water quality protection that also protects family wage jobs in the forest products and related sectors,” said Mike Draper, Vice President, Western District, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. “Application of the Ninth Circuit Court's decision across our region will bring forest management to a halt, negatively affect our members in Washington state, and destroy local economies without any contribution to environmental improvement.”
“We are thankful for Congresswomen Herrera Beutler's efforts for this important legislation,” said Rick Dunning, private forestland owner in Southwest Washington and Executive Director of the Washington Farm Forestry Association. “It shows her understanding of the negative impacts of continual regulation and fees when they are not needed. The state of Washington already has the most environmental stringent forest laws in the nation. Those laws were supposed to protect our tree farmers from continual environmental regulatory costs hoisted on our small businesses.”
“Working farms and forests are an important part of our environment and economy, providing jobs, especially in rural communities,” said Mark Doumit, Executive Director of the Washington Forest Protection Association. “Requiring an additional federally mandated permit that adds cost and confusion, without marked environmental benefit, on top of our state system that is working to protect water quality makes no sense. I applaud Congresswoman Herrera Beutler for recognizing this problem and seeking a solution so landowners can continue to practice forestry and provide water quality protection.”
“Many private forest-related businesses have told me that if this ruling stands, they’ll say ‘enough is enough’ and shut down their business. Such closures would have a devastating impact on Southwest Washington’s economy and its workers,” said Herrera Beutler. “This legislation respects 35 years of Environmental Protection Agency regulation, and retains strict, science-based oversight of forest roads. I’m pleased to join my Republican and Democrat colleagues in supporting this vital jobs bill that allows for sustainable management of our private forests.”
The legislation is also cosponsored by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Congressman Mike Michaud (D-ME), Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME), and Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR).