H.R. 2936, The Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017 (more commonly called the Westerman Bill) is currently being discussed in the House of Representatives. This bill is intended to “expedite environmental analysis and availability of categorical exclusions to expedite forest management activities.”
Apart from being destructive to forest ecosystems, the Westerman Bill is designed to benefit industry and ignore public interests. It is similar to other bills that we have seen in the past in that it seeks to bypass environmental and judicial protections. However, this bill is a more urgent issue than similar preceding bills. Not only does the Westerman Bill take much more drastic and harmful action against the forests, it has the potential to be passed into law in the current administration. This step to forgo analyses and categorically exclude certain areas from examination is a blow to public lands and undermines democracy.
The ways that this bill would disregard environmental regulations and judicial review are innumerable. Specifically, the Westerman Bill: undermines the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by creating sweeping and arbitrary waivers at unprecedented levels, limiting consideration of alternatives, and establishing radically short deadlines; eliminates citizen access to judicial review, even when the government fails to follow the law; opens up millions of acres of treasured roadless areas to harmful roadbuilding and logging; reallocates funds away from environmental restoration toward timber production, thus prioritizing industry over public interest and safety; dismantles inter-agency consultation that provides checks and balances integral to protecting critical wildlife under the Endangered Species Act; and finally, threatens national monument designation under the Antiquities Act.
This bill would have catastrophic effects in Virginia. Expediting environmental analysis and offering categorical exclusions to projects, as the Westerman Bill proposes, would have serious impacts on the environment, cultural history, public interest, and public health.
Wild Virginia and other forest defense groups are monitoring the progress of HR 2936 and encouraging our members to stay informed and to express these concerns to your congressperson.
For more information on the potential impacts and implications of the Westerman Bill: westerman-hr-2936-factsheet
The Westerman Bill in full: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2936/text