Sending Office: Committee on Natural Resources – Minority Staff
May 9, 2018
We write to express our deep concern regarding the Agriculture and Nutrition Act (Farm Bill). The Farm Bill would not only hurt hard-working American farmers and leave nearly 2 million people without money to buy groceries, but it also contains harmful provisions
that would undermine bedrock environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Clean Water Act (CWA), and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The riders in the Farm bill are far-reaching and will negatively impact our wildlife, public lands,
and drinking water. We urge you to oppose any controversial anti-environment provisions included in the final package.
Endangered Species Act
- Title VIII, Section 8303: Section 8303 would eliminate the requirement for the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), through consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to ensure logging projects do not harm endangered
wildlife and plants. Section 8303 would allow the Forest Service and BLM to unilaterally determine if projects would adversely affect listed species or critical habitat without being required to consult with experts. In addition, for any forest management
activity that is subject to consultation, the bill would impose an arbitrary 90-day deadline to conclude the consultation, regardless of the complexity of the issue and without any suggestion of additional resources for the wildlife agencies to address the
- Title IX, Section 9111: Section 9111 would allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act without adequately assessing whether they would harm hundreds of endangered
species across the country. Pesticides are a threat to numerous listed species including butterflies, birds, salmon, trout, crayfish and freshwater mussels. More than 270 recovery plans covering over 300 endangered species list pesticides as a threat to
recovery. Section 9111 would exempt the EPA from being required to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service under Section 7 of the ESA for pesticide registration. This section would replace the interagency
consultation process with a “self-consultation” that would allow the EPA to unilaterally determine how a pesticide impacts endangered plants and animals rather than requiring expert wildlife biologists to make the determination. If enacted into law, this sweeping
provision would be one of the most significant and damaging changes to the Endangered Species Act in its history.
- Title IX, Section 9114: Section 9114 would exempt the use of registered pesticides from any type of enforcement under Section 9 of the ESA, even when pesticides directly kill or injure endangered wildlife. Under current law, users and pesticide industries
are required to minimize take of any endangered species based on determinations made by the expert wildlife agencies.
Clean Water Act
- Title IX, Sections 9117-9118: These sections would eliminate critical Clean Water Act safeguards, allowing more pesticides to be sprayed directly into streams, lakes, rivers and drinking water supplies. These provisions would strip away common-sense
measures to require an EPA Pesticide General Permit to spray pesticides directly into water for mosquito-control activities, weed and algae control and forest-canopy pest control. These permits are not required for normal farming operations.
National Environmental Policy Act
- Title VIII, Subtitle C: This subtitle creates a series of categorical exclusions (CE) under NEPA for a broad range of potentially harmful projects across the National Forest System. These projects, including massive clear cuts and logging operations
in sensitive post-fire landscapes, would no longer be subject to analysis or public review under NEPA, creating the potential for projects that ignore the best available science and cause lasting ecological harm. Section 8315, for example, establishes a CE
for the removal of invasive annual grasses through grazing, even though peer-reviewed science has shown that grazing exacerbates the dominance of some invasive grasses. Other categorical exclusions, including the construction of new permanent infrastructure
for livestock, are largely unpopular with the public. These broad exemptions from environmental review cut at the core of NEPA and undermine the ability of the public to voice their concerns.
- Title VIII, Section 8503: This section revises the Forest Service’s extraordinary circumstances regulations – sideboards that ensure the agency’s use of a CE does not impact sensitive areas – to eliminate the consideration of potential wilderness
areas and the potential impact on sensitive species, including those that are listed as threatened and endangered. This provision throws out a key NEPA safeguard and would undermine the ESA.
We urge you to use your positions as Members of Congress to protect our wildlife and natural heritage for future generations of Americans and reject the inclusion of any attack on our environmental laws in the final Farm Bill.
Raúl M. Grijalva Donald S. Beyer Jr.
Ranking Member Member of Congress
Committee on Natural Resources
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