Tipton’s healthy-forest bill makes it through House panel

Democratic foes predict measure’s doom in Senate

A U.S. House committee advanced Rep. Scott Tipton’s bill to accelerate logging in national forests Wednesday, although Democrats on the panel said it will never become law.

Tipton, R-Cortez, has pushed his healthy forests legislation for two years. It allows states and local governments to nominate areas for more logging, allowing for them to brush aside the Endangered Species Act, legal challenges and lengthy environmental reviews.

The bill also sets mandates for the Forest Service to produce higher timber harvests and to share its revenues with rural school districts.

Tipton said his bill will help prevent forest fires, bring back rural jobs and funnel more timber royalty money to schools.

“We have fallen short of the benefits that can be provided to our classrooms, our communities and the ecosystem, and we should return to active forest management,” Tipton said.

The House Committee on Natural Resources wrapped Tipton’s bill into another forest bill sponsored by committee chairman Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., and passed it to the full House on a voice vote.

Democrats, however, voiced opposition and offered several amendments to keep the bill from cutting short environmental reviews. All failed.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., said Tipton’s bill would lead to a level of logging that hasn’t been seen in decades.

“This doesn’t sound like bipartisan consensus on how to manage our forests,” he said.

Grijalva predicted the Democratic-controlled Senate will not go for the bill.

“Why not craft something that would be taken seriously?” he said.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said members of Congress from the American West in the two parties have a lot of common ground on the forest-health problem, but Tipton’s bill goes too far. In any case, the real problem is prying money from Congress and the White House in order to fund forest-thinning projects, he said.

“Both the Bush administration and the Obama administration have come up short in funding hazardous fuel-reduction treatments,” DeFazio said.

The bill’s number is H.R. 1526. Wednesday’s vote puts it in line for a vote on the House floor after Congress returns from its August recess.

Tipton urged quick passage.

“Time is of the essence, and we cannot afford to wait for more fires and more devastation before Congress acts. I urge quick action in the House to pass this needed package,” Tipton said in an emailed statement after the hearing.

jhanel@durangoherald.com

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