Trump Admin. Dumping ‘Roadless Rule’ to Log Los Padres Forest

Los Padres National Forest (Frederic J. Brown / AFP / Getty)
Frederic J. Brown / AFP / Getty

The Trump administration will propose dumping the Clinton and Obama administrations’ “Roadless Rule” to open logging in the Los Padres National Forest to prevent big wildfires.

The U.S. Forest Service is moving to open up the Los Padres Forest north of Los Angeles to commercial logging for the first time in 21 years to reduce the risk of massive size wildfires, according to reports by KTLA.

With California’s Carr and Mendocino Complex wildfires both at record sizes, President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday: “California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized. He added, “It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear stop fire spreading!”

The President’s tweet followed the August 2 announcement that the U.S. Department of Agriculture Department was moving to strike portions of President Clinton’s 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule. Clinton’s rule, an executive order implemented just eight days before he left office, prohibited road construction, road reconstruction, and timber harvesting on 58.5 million acres in 130 U.S. national forest lands.

The Bush administration battled the rule in the courts, but the Obama administration announced on May 28, 2009 that any logging, mining, or other commercial activity on about one-third of U.S. national forest lands had to be individually approved by the Secretary of Agriculture.

In addition to the rule being contentious for the damage to rural communities that had economically relied on logging and mining for over 100 years, forestry experts cautioned that the elimination of logging to thin the forests and banning logging roads that served as fire breaks risked denser forests that could increase the size of wildfires.

According to the Ecological Institute at Northern Arizona University, research data reveals that southwestern forests through the 1990s were “open-structured” forests that were subject low-intensity fires due to relatively light fuel loads of vegetation, downed needles, and woody debris, and also due to smaller tree saplings and seedlings.

But these same forests two decades later have become much denser, and the majority of fires have quickly been suppressed to protect natural resources, human communities, and structures. Consequently, the accumulation of fuels has greatly increased the likelihood of “wildfires of unprecedented severity” due to active crown fires spreading from tree to tree through the canopy of densely packed forest stands.

Breitbart News recently reported that for the period from January 1 through July 29, 2018, there were 3,770 California wildfires. That was only about 10 percent higher than that the 3,440 last year and the 3,405-acre average for the last five years. But the number of acres burned this year, at 292,455, is about 50 percent higher than the 219,369 acres burnt last year, and more than double the 118,811-acre average for the last five years.

Earthjustice attorney Holly Harris stated that the environmentalist group has waged a decade-long legal fight to defend the “Roadless Rule” for the “protection of old-growth forests in the wildlands,” and says it will continue to fight against the “destructive timber industry.”


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