Federal laws are designed to protect human health and the environment

Random audits check for compliance

Within the last 30-40 years, several federal environmental laws have passed that affect forest management and timber harvest.  These laws were designed primarily to minimize the adverse effects of human activities on human health and the environment. The Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts and the Occupational Safety and Hazard Act apply to all landowners.  In addition, projects on federal lands require compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, National Forest Management Act as well as a host of other laws.

Clean Water Act

This federal law was passed in 1972 to ensure that America’s streams, rivers, and lakes retain high water quality. It requires state governments develop state programs to protect water quality in forest streams. Every four years the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality conducts an audit of randomly selected logging jobs across the state as part of the State’s commitment to implementing the federal Clean Water Act. The audit team monitors stream temperature, sediment in the stream, shade, bank stability and the number of aquatic fish and invertebrate species to determine if BMPs were effective.

Endangered Species Act

The federal version of this law was passed in 1973. It was intended to protect threatened or endangered species until they are out of danger of extinction. In 1994, Idaho had 14 species under ESA protection, ranging from grizzly bears, salmon, and eagles to snails and even a flower.  In 2018, there were 15 threatened and endangered species listed in Idaho.

Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960

This federal law requires the “harmonious and coordinated management” of the national forests for outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, wildlife, and fish purposes, with harvest in balance with growth.

National Environmental Policy Act

Passed into federal law in 1969, this act requires all federal agencies to present a wide range of alternative management decisions to the public and to write an environmental impact statement when any action they take “will significantly affect the human environment.”

National Forest Management Act

A federal law passed by Congress in 1976 as an amendment to the Resources Planning Act. The NFMA requires that national forests develop a 10-15 year plan describing how that forest will be managed. By law, plans are developed by interdisciplinary teams and must include public participation.

Resources Planning Act

Passed by Congress in 1974, this federal law requires a complete national assessment or inventory of all forest, rangeland resources, and public needs every ten years, along with a plan to meet those needs.

Wilderness Act

This 1964 federal law defines wilderness as an area where “man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” No roads, logging, motorized vehicles, or other developments that would show a sign of man’s activities are allowed in a wilderness area.