U.S. CONGRESS — U.S. Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jon Tester (D-MT) and U.S. Representatives Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Collin Peterson (D-MN) today underscored the urgency in reversing the ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cottonwood Environmental Law Center v. U.S. Forest Service by introducing bipartisan bicameral legislation to do just that.
The bill seeks to codify the position taken by the Obama administration that federal agencies are not required to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service at a programmatic level when new critical habitat is designated or a new species is listed.
“We need to take action immediately to reverse this disastrous court ruling that negatively impacts forest health, recreation, and watershed and habitat protection,” Daines stated. “This bipartisan legislation enjoys the support of diverse stakeholders and will protect Montana jobs and the commonsense collaborative forest management projects that have been harmed by this court decision.”
“The Cottonwood decision could lead to endless red tape for folks working on timber projects, trail maintenance, and conservation efforts,” Tester said. “To restore certainty for Montana mills and folks who work in the woods, we need to eliminate these hurdles created by the court and get this bipartisan bill signed into law.”
“Managing our forests is already challenging enough with increasing costs of wildfires,” said Simpson. “The last thing our land managers need is a duplicative process that prevents the Forest Service from pursuing important projects that improves forest health and increases access to our public lands. Congress must move swiftly to reverse the Cottonwood decision before it unnecessarily delays this seasons planned management activities.”
“Ongoing working forest management projects should not be interrupted for bureaucratic reasons because it wastes time and precious dollars. As an avid sportsman, I look forward to this bill moving through Congress,” said Peterson.
Currently there are conflicting circuit court interpretations in the Ninth (Cottonwood Environmental Law Center v. Forest Service) and Tenth Circuits (Forest Guardians v. Forsgren) on this matter of wide-ranging import, but in October 2016 the Supreme Court denied the Department of Justice’s petition to settle the discrepancy.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, 80 vegetation management projects and hundreds of millions of board feet are at risk due to Cottonwood.
Daines and Tester introduced comparable legislation in the 114th Congress. Former U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke introduced the House companion.
The members’ bill is supported by:
- National Wildlife Federation
- Trout Unlimited
- Montana Wood Products Association
- Federal Forest Resource Coalition
- American Forest Resource Council
- Public Lands Council
- Montana Wildlife Federation
- Idaho Wildlife Federation
- Conservation Northwest
- Association of Northwest Steelheaders
- National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
- BlueRibbon Coalition
- Associated Logging Contractors – Idaho
- Douglas Timber Operators
- Intermountain Forest Association
- Dale Bosworth, Retired Chief of the United States Forest Service
- Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
- Boone and Crockett Club
- Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
- Mule Deer Foundation
- National Wild Turkey Federation
- The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness
- Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
- Ruffed Grouse Society
- Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
- Coalition of Forested Counties, Montana Association of Counties
- Montana Stockgrowers
- Whitetails Unlimited
- Wild Sheep Foundation
- Wildlife Management Institute
- Associated Oregon Loggers
- Washington Contract Loggers
- California Forestry Association
The text of the bill can be found HERE.