House Bill Reignites Debate Between Industry and the Environment
Photo: Video by IdahoOnYourSide.com
The decades-old debate between the logging industry and conservationists is starting up again.
Today the house passed a bill that mandates higher levels of lumber production for much of the west. If it becomes law some regions will produce ten times more lumber.
The package also includes an act from Congressman Raul Labrador (R – Idaho) that will give two million acres of federal forests to state and local communities to manage. Labrador says this bill will boost the economies of rural towns that are dependent on lumber production.
But conservationists say we're taking two steps back to policies that once decimated our natural resources.
Lumber production across the nation has dropped nearly seventy five percent in the last thirty years. Labrador says this decline has hurt communities that sprang up during the lumber boom in the seventies and eighties. He says the bill will give needed support to those communities.
While environmentalists say most of congress doesn't understand western land management.
"It is time to permanently provide our counties with a solution that will create jobs, generate tax receipts for the counties, and improve forest health," said Labrador when he argued in support of the bill.
"This isn't like the battles days where it was jobs versus owls or environmentalists versus loggers,” said Rick Johnson of the Idaho Conservation League. “There is a lot more collaboration on the ground right now. We're working with communities in many different places. We're working with industry in many different places and we're making a lot of progress."
In addition to the increased levels of production the forest service will give twenty-five percent of their receipts to the county in which they are operating. Proponents of the bill also say increasing logging will ultimately decrease catastrophic wildfires.
The bill will now be sent off to the senate where analysts are skeptical it will pass.