Center for Biological Diversity: Omnibus Bill Includes Riders to Ramp Up Logging, Weaken Wildlife Protections

WASHINGTON— The $1.3 trillion spending bill unveiled in Congress on Wednesday includes harmful provisions to ramp up logging on public lands, weaken protections for endangered species and fund portions of an environmental destructive border wall.

The bill, however, does not include most of the anti-environment riders proposed by Republicans, including ending protections for wolves in the Great Lakes states, allowing a toxic mine in the Superior National Forest and undermining the National Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which would have allowed damaging road building in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. It also contains significant funding for conservation and spares the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge from destructive border wall fences.

“We’re very grateful to Democrats for keeping many of the worst riders out of this bill. Unfortunately, there are still some pretty nasty provisions in there for the environment,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Republican members of Congress who hold the entire government hostage to insist on damaging environmental riders are why people are fed up with this dysfunctional Congress.”

The omnibus contains an expansion of the so-called Healthy Forestry Restoration Act of 2003 and will now allow logging projects under the guise of “hazard fuel reduction” of 3,000 acres without any meaningful review under the National Environmental Policy Act or the ability for citizen to object to damaging projects.

The omnibus also includes the so-called Cottonwood legislation introduced by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) that would weaken Endangered Species Act protections on all national forests. The provision allows the Forest Service to continue to approve destructive logging, mining and grazing actions regardless of the consequence to endangered species — even if a species is added to the endangered species list because of those activities.

“National forests and endangered animals will suffer for decades to come, and wildlife may even go extinct, due to the terrible handouts snuck into this bill by Tester and Daines,” said Hartl. “It’s sad that the price of keeping our government open for a few more months includes these provisions that are bad for people and wildlife.”

Also included in the proposed spending bill are harmful riders that would:

  • Prevent the federal government from protecting people and wildlife from lead ammunition and fishing tackle;
  • Limit Endangered Species Act protections for sage grouse;
  • Restrict the EPA from regulating fill materials in wetlands.