What Will Happen to the Bears?
Any time I’m able to get out of DC and spend some time in the woods, I jump at the chance. I especially like visiting national forests–they are found all over the country, have a huge variety of recreation options, a wide range of wildlife species, and best of all, they’re free to visit.
So when I heard about a bill that would decimate national forests across the country by requiring the Forest Service to spend whatever it takes to comply with the requirement of logging at least 50% of public forest land each year, the first thought that popped into my mind was: “What will happen to da bears?”
Shrinking Wildlife Habitat
H.R. 1526, the “Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act,” is a Trojan horse for mandating or incentivizing logging across vast swaths of our public land, with limited to no public input.
Mandated timber production would certainly eliminate and fragment habitat for all sorts of wildlife already at risk from other development and climate pressures, including bears. This bill would elevate timber production above all other uses on forest lands, eliminating the quality of our forests that impressed me most–places with a balance of activities and values.
Whether it was camping alongside hunters with my Boy Scout troop in the Manistee National Forest in west Michigan, going on a river rafting trip in the Salmon–Challis National Forest in Idaho, or having to dodge grazing cattle in our car on our way to a hike in the Uinta National Forest during a family reunion in Utah, the forests I’ve visited have figured a way to support outdoor recreation, wildlife management, water conservation, grazing, mining, oil and gas operations, and of course, harvesting timber.
Ending Forest Safeguards
The balance on our public lands comes from “multiple-use” management that is a result of over 100 years of forest laws and tried-and-true forest management practices. H.R. 1526 would throw that out the window. The intention of the bill is to link logging to revenue for counties. Certainly, rural counties with a lot of public land deserve support for schools and infrastructure, but this bill would destroy our National Forests and Bureau of Land Management public forest lands for special interests without addressing the true, long-term needs of rural communities. The bill would also waive or significantly limit important safeguards for our environment, like the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and more, placing watersheds, drinking water, wildlife and other natural resources at risk.
I don’t know about you, but I want to continue to be able to escape to the forest and actually be able to see wildlife, like black bears, or maybe even a glimpse of a very rare species like a wolverine (my other favorite). When “inside-the-Beltway” nonsense like H.R. 1526 keeps popping up, the urge to head to the woods gets even stronger.