Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act (HR 1404)
House Chamber, Washington D.C. March 25, 2009. M. Chairman: I certainly support HR 1404, which would allow some flexibility in managing firefighting costs on our federal lands.
But I want to call attention to the fact that our firefighting costs would be much lower – and our revenues would be much higher – if we would restore the sound forest management practices that this Congress long ago abandoned. Instead, this Congress has embraced a radical and retrograde ideology that we should abandon our public lands to overpopulation, overgrowth and benign neglect. Bills like this one are necessitated by this folly of public policy.
A generation ago, we recognized the importance of proper wildlands management. We recognized that nothing is more devastating to the ecology of a forest than a forest fire. And we recognized that in any living community – including forests – dense over-population is unhealthy.
And so we carefully groomed our public lands, removing excessive vegetation and giving timber the room it needs to grow. Surplus timber and overgrowth were sold for the benefit of our communities. Our forests prospered and our economy prospered. And forest fires were far less numerous and far less intense than we suffer today.
Today, we are seeing the damage done to our forests and to our economy by the Luddite ideology that human beings shouldn’t touch our national resources.
My region in northeastern California has been tormented by devastating fires in the last few years. And the reason is quite simple. As one forester explained, “the excess timber is going to come out of the forests one way or the other. It is either going to be carried out or it is going to be burned out.”
A generation ago we carried it out, and it fueled prosperity throughout our region – and produced a cornucopia of revenues to the federal government.
But today, it is being burned out, fueling devastating fires that are destroying vast tracts of land and the abundance and prosperity that we once enjoyed.
The first victim of this wrong-headed policy is the environment itself. Our recent forest fires have made a mockery of all of our clean-air regulations. Those concerned about carbon dioxide might be interested in a report by scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research and University of Colorado at Boulder. They estimated that a single forest fire in California in 2007 produced about 25 percent of the average monthly emissions from all fossil fuel burning throughout all of California. And anyone who has seen a forest after one of these fires knows that the environmental devastation could not possibly be more complete.
But the cost of these policies doesn’t end there. Timber is a renewable resource – if properly managed it is literally an inexhaustible source of prosperity. And yet, my region, blessed with one of the most bountiful renewable resources in the nation has been rendered economically prostrate. A region that once prospered from its surplus timber is now ravaged by fires that are fueled by that surplus timber.
In the little town of Quincy, California, (population 2,000), 150 families are about to lose their jobs because the saw mill has to shut down – environmental litigation has tied up 2/3 of their timber harvest. The company, Sierra Pacific, is also having to shut down its saw mills in Sonora and Camino, for the same reason, devastating another 300 families.
This is not environmentalism. True environmentalists recognize the damage done by overgrowth and overpopulation and recognize the role of sound forest management practices in maintaining healthy forests.
So M. Chairman, while I support this legislation, we wouldn’t need to be spending so much putting out fires – and we’d have a lot more revenue to do it with – if we would spend a little more effort on restoring sound forest management practices to our national forests.