On June 8 the Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a hearing to examine how litigation and increasingly excessive environmental analysis facing the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has exacerbated the ongoing forest health crisis. Fifty-eight million acres of national forests are at high or very high risk of severe wildfire. Despite deteriorating forest health and the increasing potential for catastrophic wildfire, USFS employees spend more than 40 percent of their time conducting planning and analysis instead of managing our federal forests and rangelands.
Environmental laws originally intended to protect the environment, such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, are now working against the USFS, significantly hindering active management. The panel outlined how excessive lawsuits and vague statutory authorities force the USFS to make environmental analysis documents “bullet-proof,” in fear of litigation.
When Democratic Congressman Alan Lowenthal asked about the role of climate change in today’s mega-fires, he got an answer he probably didn’t expect from Bruce Hallin, Director of Water Supply for the Salt River Project in Phoenix, Arizona.
The full hearing can be watched here.