Washington, DC — During debate of the Interior Appropriations Act (H.R. 2466) today, the Senate voted against an amendment by Senator Chuck Robb (D-VA). The amendment would have removed a provision in the bill which clarifies the authority Congress granted the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to conduct wildlife surveys under the National Forest Management Act (NFMA).
"The defeat of this amendment is a victory for the environment and for sound forest management," Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said. "It is also a significant setback for those who oppose active management of our forests."
"By temporarily preserving the discretion of local forest managers, Section 329 will help end the legal train wreck in the Pacific Northwest and the Southeast," Goodlatte said. "It will also give Congress and the Administration time to resolve the 'survey and manage' issue in a careful and thoughtful manner. Most importantly, it will enable local forest professionals, instead of lawyers and judges, to get back to the business of managing our forests for the benefit of all Americans."
Due to a judicial interpretation of the NFMA which runs contrary to Congress' intent and established legal precedent, national forests under the Northwest Forest Plan currently are enjoined from conducting any "ground disturbing" activities until the Forest Service and BLM complete a series of unprecedented surveys of plant and animal species. While none of the species requiring study are threatened or endangered, many surveys are prohibitively expensive or impossible to perform. National forests in the Southeast have been similarly enjoined.
The Robb amendment would have stricken Section 329 of H.R. 2466, which reiterates the intent of Congress that Forest Service and BLM resource managers determine the appropriate level of wildlife surveys required under the National Forest Management Act.
Goodlatte represents Virginia's Sixth Congressional District, which includes Roanoke, Lynchburg, and the Shenandoah Valley.