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McClintock Pushes For NEPA Exemption To Speed Up Forest Thinning Projects

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Washington, DC — Mother Lode Republican Congressman Tom McClintock authored legislation that passed through the House Natural Resources Committee this week that would make it easier to log and remove forest fuels throughout the national forest system.

He notes that back in 2016, President Obama signed a categorial exclusion as part of the Winn Act that sped up forest projects around Lake Tahoe. An experimental program, McClintock argues that it has been very beneficial, and should be expanded to all other forestlands. His bill that would do that, H.R. 188, was approved in the Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 23-17.

At the meeting, McClintock highlighted the benefits of the 2016 bill, and stated, “That law provided for a categorical exclusion from the National Environmental Policy Act for forest thinning projects up to 10,000 acres under certain conditions within the Tahoe Basin. Now under NEPA, a simple forest thinning project requires an average of four and a half years of environmental studies that produce reports often exceeding 800 pages. They cost millions of dollars to produce, often more than the value of the timber we’re removing.”

McClintock notes that the categorical exclusion in the Tahoe Basin has reduced the time it takes to review projects to just four months.

He says the four-year review process increases the costs to the point where it is no longer feasible to do projects and leads to overgrown forests.

H.R. 188 will eventually go to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

McClintock also argued that the bill will help save communities from future devastating wildfires, and referenced the impacts of the 2021 Caldor Fire.