Saturday, August 10, 2013

Healthy Forests? Not if LaMalfa has his way...

On Tuesday of next week, all across the nation, 136 "Unicorn" awards will be given to 136 Republican Congressmen who are Climate Change Deniers. A group of local Environmentalists and Democratic Party Activists will attempt to give this award to our own Cowboy Congressman, Doug LaMalfa. Amongst that group, will be my spouse, Joni Clark Stellar. In fact, she will be one of two speakers at the event. I have obligations elsewhere, so I won't be able to attend. However, you should be able to catch it on TV.

Joni has been working on her speech, as she decided to actually write one this time. I've heard her give many talks before and she does a fine job speaking extemporaneously, but this time she wanted to have all her ducks in a row. As part of the research, she has been reading much of the legislation that Doug LaMalfa has either sponsored, or cosponsored in the United States House. She piqued my interest, so I spent the evening researching just what LaMalfa has been signing his name to in the House.

You can tell a lot about your Congressman by reading through the bills that he/she has decided to cosponsor. In Doug's case, he has signed on to provisions that make our food "pest free" (can you guess who benefits from that type of legislation?). He also signed on to a bill that states that a Carbon Tax would be bad for the country. He has signed on to bills that would leave the regulation of fracking to every individual states (which begs the question of what happens on Federal Land). He has signed on to legislation that prevents drones from killing American Citizens in the United States. Whew, I'm glad we got that one handled!

And there are the nods to the social Conservatives, with LaMalfa signing on to prenatal pain bans (expected to end abortions). He demonstrates a bit of a Libertarian streak in his cosponsoring legislation that protects e-mails from being read by Uncle Sam. Yet, I'm wondering if he would sign on to such legislation if the White House had a Republican in it?

LaMalfa doesn't mind going out on a limb, sometimes signing on to legislation that has very few cosponsors. One of these was a bill to prevent the Health Care exchanges to begin signing up customers until one year after they were created. LaMalfa pretty much signed up for anything that eliminates poor people from getting healthcare. I guess he figures the poor don't need health care.

And LaMalfa signs on to several bills that allow logging to commence unfettered on public lands. Much of our District is public land, either BLM or Forest Service land.  The very worst of these bills is HR 1526 which has the rather happy name of the "Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act of 2013". Sounds good. This law stems back from the Forest Service having been created in 1908, whereby a percentage of the logging sales would go to fund schools and roads in the host communities.

It isn't like the West hasn't been logged. It has been logged extensively. Just fly over the Sierra and you will see just how much the west has been clear cut. Some of the forest has been saved through environmental provisions such as the Endangered Species Act and clean water initiatives. For many of us, we consider the forest to have more purposes than just to become a piece of paper or a 2 x 4 in a suburb.

Rural communities next to Federal lands have been suffering for decades. They have experienced high unemployment and narrowing of opportunities. Much of this has been blamed on Environmentalists, as they are perceived as having ended much of the logging that would restore jobs and  money to rural communities. Of course, mechanization of the logging industry (just watch those awful logging shows on TV) has been responsible for much of the unemployment. Just a couple of people can log out acres in an afternoon.

Enter Doug LaMalfa and 20 House Republicans. The Healthy Forest Act encourages logging on all Federal Lands that aren't designated Wilderness Areas or National Parks. The Act negates the Endangered Species Act. It negates all other environmental protections, such as clean water initiatives. It does such by a declaration of the Secretary of Agriculture in an extremely bizarre fashion. Much of the Act attempts to slither outside of judicial review.

And here is the most cynical part of the bill: Should a group or community decide to prevent a forest from being logged, that group must put up a bond that would cover the costs of the government for defending the law. That would effectively end many attempts at saving the northern spotted owl and other critical habitat. Do you think the Center for Biological Diversity has millions to put into a bond to save a cut?

Essentially, the HR 1526 considers our National Forests to have one purpose only: to be standing board feet for the large logging operations. Other uses such as recreation, hydrology or habitat for our furry cousins are not considered relevant. All it really does is open up all Forest Service lands to increased logging operations.

This Healthy Forests Act is nothing but a wet dream for Sierra Pacific. Doug LaMalfa serves up the remainder of our forests to be nothing but a timber stand for Georgia Pacific. It is a sick attempt to get around environmental laws that have benefitted plants and animals that have had no representation. They don't have a voice. Doug effectively silences them.

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