February 07, 2014

Crapoâ??s Forest Roads Regulatory Relief Legislation Becomes Law

President signs Farm Bill that includes bipartisan language to provide legal certainty to those managing timberlands; supports over 2.4 million jobs

Washington, D.C. - Federal, state, county, tribal and private forest owners, along with farmers and ranchers, will benefit from language, included in the Farm Bill, signed into law by President Barack Obama.  The Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act, more commonly known as the forest roads legislation, introduced by Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), would codify positions taken by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Supreme Court that forest roads used for logging activities will not be subject to EPA discharge permits as initially intended by Congress.

"Idaho, along with states throughout the country, will benefit from the inclusion of this language in the Farm Bill," said Crapo.  "Continually subjecting the job creators in our rural logging communities to more and more litigation notwithstanding the positions taken by the EPA and the Supreme Court is wasteful and burdensome.  Maintaining a healthy timber industry that promotes jobs and preserves our forestsin a responsible way must be our priority.  Through the president's signature, a 38 year-old program that deferred the regulation of logging road runoff to individual states and avoidedduplicative and overly burdensome federal compliance will rightfully continue.  Private, state and federal land managers have been successful at mitigating environmental impacts from stormwater runoff on forest roads for 38 years.  I am confident this law provides them the certainty to continue to do so going forward."

Along with Crapo and Wyden, the Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act was introduced in the Senate with Senators Max Baucus (D-Montana) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho).  Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-Washington), Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon), Dan Benishek (R-Michigan), Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Jeff Duncan (R-South Carolina), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington), Nick Rahall (D-West Virginia), Reid Ribble (R-Wisconsin) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho).

The act was introduced in response to a decision by the Ninth Circuit declaring that forest roads are by law "point sources" and must be considered for federal regulation under the permit program for stormwater discharges.  The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the portion of the Ninth Circuit's decision that point source permits are mandatory for forest roads, but the Court did not reverse the Ninth Circuit's holding that ditches and culverts along forest roads are defined as "point sources" under the Clean Water Act.  The language included in the Farm Bill codifies that forest roads and other practices in EPA's silviculture rule are not subject to EPA discharge permits thereby enabling the continued regulation of forest roads using state best management practices.  The provision also permanently protects forest owners from citizen lawsuits challenging compliance with any EPA measures addressing stormwater discharges.