July 24, 2012

Litigation, Red Tape Fuel Megafires damaging Forests, Communities, Species

Press Release
Committee on Natural Resources
United States House of Representatives

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House Natural Resources Committee held an oversight hearing on, “The Impact of Catastrophic Forest Fires and Litigation on People and Endangered Species: Time for Rational Management of our Nation's Forests.”

The hearing focused on the devastating impacts of catastrophic wildfires on people and species and how Endangered Species Act litigation blocks activities that help prevent and fight fires.

“Information provided by the Justice Department to this Committee reveals that at least 59 environmental lawsuits against the Forest Service and BLM have been filed or are open during just the past four years. These suits have stopped most human or economic activity connected with forests, including eliminating thousands of jobs. They have also obstructed projects to improve species habitat on thousands of acres decimated by fires, by removing dead or diseased trees, maintaining access roads to fire areas, and removing ash and sediment.

Ironically, some of these lawsuits aimed at ‘saving’ forests have resulted in their actual destruction, where once old-growth, critical habitat forests now resemble the moon’s surface after fires,” said Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04).

“Our communities and endangered species deserve practical solutions now to address and reduce the risks of megafires. We owe it to them to improve federal forest health and species habitat and ensure that the Endangered Species Act works to protect species and people before and after these devastating fires occur.”