Ranking Member Grijalva: Republican Spin, Climate Denial Making it Harder to Pass Good Forestry Policy in Farm Bill

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a Democratic conferee in the ongoing Farm Bill negotiations, said today that deepening climate denial and new waves of Republican spin are making it harder to negotiate a final Farm Bill deal. Recent remarks by Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), as quoted in an Oct. 4 Politico tip sheet item, make it clear that Republicans are holding the bill hostage to their unreasonable demands on forestry policy, Grijalva said.

The House-passed version of the Farm Bill, which advanced 213-211 without a single Democratic vote, is a deregulatory industry wish list that differs widely from the bipartisan Senate version. Among other measures, the House bill:

  • limits public input and environmental review on logging projects as large as 6,000 acres (almost 10 square miles) when removing fire-damaged trees, spraying herbicides, or creating openings for wildlife;
  • expands post-fire “salvage” logging on public lands ostensibly to prevent wildfires despite the fact that post-fire logging rarely contributes to ecological recovery;
  • exempts the Forest Service from analyzing cumulative environmental effects of multiple categorical exclusion projects in the same vicinity, violating the principle that management activities should not be environmentally destructive.?

Despite the unpopularity of these and other related measures, Bishop and Westerman continue to lecture Senate Democrats about the need to pass them in order to finalize the overall Farm Bill. As Politico reported:

The House-passed farm bill includes forest management provisions aimed at lowering wildfire risks and speeding up emergency responses by scaling back forestry regulations. Conservation groups have argued some of the provisions go too far in scrapping needed environmental protections.

"Despite good faith efforts by the farm bill conferees, Senate Democrats refuse to even discuss these needed reforms," Bishop and Westerman said, noting that nearly 1 million acres are now on fire nationwide. "We urge our Senate colleagues to listen to the stories of the farmers and ranchers affected by catastrophic wildfire, and work swiftly to finalize the 2018 farm bill."

Grijalva pointed out several problems with the GOP narrative:

  • House Republicans in March agreed to an omnibus forest management package that included a long-sought fix for U.S. Forest Service wildfire management funding and several targeted management reforms. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue applauded the bill for containing “meaningful new forest management tools,” including the authority to use what is known as a categorical exclusion to expedite fuel-clearing projects under certain conditions to prevent wildfires.
  • The Forest Service, under Secretary Perdue, has subsequently been slow to implement these “meaningful tools.” There is no evidence that the agency has used its new categorical exclusion authority to complete a single wildfire prevention project since it was created.
  • There is no sign that the Senate has ever had any appetite for House Republicans’ unreasonable demands, calling into question why Bishop and Westerman point to them as a crucial sticking point.

“If you don’t understand that climate change is real and we’re making it worse, you don’t get to lecture anyone on forest management or wildfire policy,” Grijalva said today. “It sounds like the only Farm Bill the Chairman and his allies will support is one that cuts down all the trees to save the stumps from wildfires. It’s a departure from political and scientific reality, and it’s an obstacle to productive negotiations.”

Press Contact

Media Contact: Adam Sarvana (Grijalva), 202-225-6065