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FY2018 Draft Interior, Environment Appropriations Bill Released

Conservation Groups Say Bill Would Greenlight Old-growth Logging in Tongass National Forest


November 21, 2017
Tuesday PM

(SitNews) - U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) released her Fiscal Year 2018 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act recommendation, which she said will support key programs to protect the health of our economy. Known as the chairman’s mark, the draft recommends responsible funding levels and serves as the basis of the subcommittee’s appropriations bill negotiations for the new fiscal year.

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U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski said, “This bill will empower Americans to build our economy and create healthy communities for our families. As chairman, I’ve worked hard to address key priorities, from ensuring our parks are adequately staffed, to prioritizing healthcare through IHS, and focusing on public safety.”

Murkowski said, “In this draft bill, we direct federal resources where they are needed by investing in programs aimed to protect people and our lands, enable new infrastructure projects to boost the economy, and help communities provide vital, basic services.” 

The Center for Biological Diversity is concerned that the draft proposed Monday will accelerate old-growth logging in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest and allow development in roadless areas throughout Alaska’s national forests. The proposals are part of the committee's draft legislation to fund the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2018.

Audubon Alaska is concerned the rider introduced by Murkowski on the Senate Interior and Environment appropriations bill would erase the 2016 Tongass Land Management Plan (TLMP) amendment and replace it with the old 2008 plan.

“While the 2016 TLMP amendment had flaws, it kept the momentum moving toward ending old-growth clearcut logging on the Tongass National Forest,” said Susan Culliney, Audubon Alaska’s Policy Director. “Returning to the 2008 plan will be a significant step backward in the effort to transition away from this outdated practice. Perpetuating clearcutting is bad for American taxpayers who lose millions of dollars subsidizing the industry. This bill is a loser for ecology, economy, and public process.”

One of the stated reasons for this bill, according to Audubon Alaska, is maintaining the economics of the timber industry in Southeast Alaska, but it does not call for an assessment as to whether clearcutting old-growth is economic. Fishing and tourism far outstrip the timber industry, and continuing to clearcut old-growth has the potential to undermine these burgeoning sectors of the regional economy.

Nils Warnock, Audubon Alaska’s Executive Director, said about seven percent of Southeast Alaska used to be characterized by the large-tree, old-growth forest that makes the region so magnificent. Now only three percent of Southeast Alaska contains these massive trees.

Warnock said, “If we want the Tongass to remain a healthy ecosystem for birds and wildlife and a place that the tourism and fishing industries can rely on, we must protect the incredible large-tree old-growth that still remains.”

“Senator Murkowski seems dead-set on rewarding her special interest benefactors even if it means trashing our nation’s iconic public lands in Alaska,” said Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Spivak said, “Clearcutting our old-growth and degrading roadless areas is shameful and deeply out of touch with the American people’s values.”

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the legislation would amend the 2016 land management plan for the Tongass National Forest to allow old-growth logging indefinitely. The current land management plan, which involved years of stakeholder development and public participation, provides for a transition for timber harvesting to switch from old-growth to only younger-growth trees, thereby protecting most of the remaining old-growth forests in Alaska.

This legislation would also overturn the “roadless rule,” which was adopted in 2000 to protect “large, relatively undisturbed landscapes” in national forests from logging roads and clearcuts. The roadless rule still allows for economic development — including hydropower projects, transmission lines, tourism and even mining — so long as no permanent roads are constructed.

“For years the Republicans have perverted the appropriations process to advance the interests of corporate polluters over our nation’s proud tradition of protecting public lands,” said Spivak. “This is a new low, even for them.”

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, in the first 10 months of the 115th Congress, Republicans have introduced more than 80 bills that attack public lands, weaken environmental safeguards on those lands or turn over control to states and local governments.

The Center for Biological Diversity said these attacks go against the wishes of most Americans, since the vast majority of voters across political parties support protecting and maintaining forests, national parks, monuments and other public lands and waters.

The poll, Public Opinion on Energy, the Environment, and Climate Poll, surveyed 1,002 voters nationwide.


On the Web:

Public Opinion on Energy, the Environment, and Climate - Key findings from a telephone survey among 2016 voters Conducted December 2016
for the Center for American Progress (1,002 voter nationwide polled)

DRAFT FY2018 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill (pdf)



State Appeals Roadless Rule to D.C. Circuit Court
SitNews - November 07, 2017


Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


Source of News:

Office of U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski

Center for Biological Diversity

Audubon Alaska



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