Democratic News

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) today announced that the U.S. Forest Service has agreed to hold additional listening sessions on the proposed Northwest Forest Plan, including some regions explicitly requested by Sen. Cantwell.

Last month, the senator expressed concern to the U.S. Forest Service regarding the limited number of listening sessions being held in Washington state on the agency’s proposed Northwest Forest Plan revision. In a letter addressed to United States Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Robert Bonnie, Sen. Cantwell requested additional listening sessions in areas near the impacted National Forests, including Port Angeles, Aberdeen, Montesano, Mount Vernon or Darrington. The Forest Service recently agreed to her request and will hold sessions in Mount Vernon, Issaquah and Olympia, as well as to-be-announced sessions near the Gifford Pinchot and the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests.

“I am pleased that the communities directly affected by the agency’s decisions will have a chance to have their voices heard,” said Sen. Cantwell, ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. “The previous plan would have posed a hardship on the residents who live and work far from Seattle and limits their right to public comment as citizens. This is important in making sure the Forest Service is responsive to public concerns.”

The current Northwest Forest Plan provides a framework and rules for how several of the National Forests in the Pacific Northwest are governed. The Forest Service is soliciting comments on how to revise or reshape that plan.


Read Sen. Cantwell’s letter to Under Secretary Bonnie below.


March 18, 2015

The Honorable Robert Bonnie
Under Secretary for
Natural Resources and the Environment
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250


Dear Mr. Bonnie:

I recently learned of the Forest Service’s effort to revise the Northwest Forest Plan.  As a part of that effort, the Forest Service is holding listening sessions to gather public input on what should be considered and included in the upcoming revision.  However, the number and locations of the planned listening sessions cause me a lot of concern.  There is only one listening session planned for the entire State of Washington State, and it is in Seattle rather than the communities adjacent to the impacted National Forests.  I am requesting that you direct the Forest Service to hold additional listening sessions across my State.

The Obama Administration has a great record of soliciting public input when it comes to issues surrounding the National Forests.  I am perplexed by the apparent change in course.  Holding only one meeting in Seattle creates limited opportunity for the public to provide input on this important effort, and poses a real hardship on residents that live near the National Forests and whose livelihoods are tied to the Agency’s decisions concerning these Forests.

Specifically, I am requesting that the Forest Service hold three additional sessions near the National Forests of Washington that are covered in the Northwest Forest Plan.  One session should be in Port Angeles and another in Aberdeen, WA or Montesano, WA.  A third listening session should be hosted in Mount Vernon, WA or Darrington, WA. These would afford my constituents a more realistic opportunity to have their voice heard.  Again, these areas reflect the rural communities that are likely to feel the direct impacts of a revised Northwest Forest Plan.

The Forest Service should gather public input from both urban residents and rural residents. Thank you for your attention on this matter.

Sincerely,

Maria Cantwell
Ranking Member
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

CC: Chief Tom Tidwell, Regional Forester Jim Pena

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