Resilient Federal Forests Act
November 1, 2017
Remarks in support of H.R. 2936 - Resilient Federal Forests Act
Forty-five years ago, Congress enacted laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act, that promised to improve the health of our forests. They imposed what have become endlessly time-consuming and ultimately cost-prohibitive restrictions on our ability to properly manage our national forests so that we can match the tree density with the ability of the land to support it.
After 45 years of experience with these laws, I think we’re entitled to ask, “How are the forests doing?” The answer is damning. Our forests are now catastrophically overgrown, often carrying four times the number of trees the land can support. In this stressed and weakened condition, our forests are easy prey for drought, disease, pestilence and fire.
There’s an old adage that excess timber comes out of the forest one way or the other. It’s either carried out – or it burns out. When we carried it out, we had resilient, healthy forests and a thriving economy as excess timber was sold and harvested before it could choke our forests to death. In the years since, we’ve seen an 80 percent decline in timber sales from our federal lands and a concomitant increase in acreage destroyed by forest fire.
The direct revenues and spin-off commerce generated by these sales provided a stream of revenues that we could then use to improve our national forests and share with the local communities affected.
The Resilient Federal Forests Act begins to move us back toward sound and scientific forest management practices. It requires forest managers to consider the cost of no action alternatives; it streamlines fire and disease prevention programs and assures that fire-killed timber can be quickly removed to create both revenues and room to restore fire-damaged lands. It ends the practice of raiding prevention funds to fight fires. It streamlines onerous environmental review processes without sacrificing environmental protection and provides forest managers with alternatives to resolve frivolous lawsuits.
Provisions that streamline the environmental reviews were already signed into law last year for the Tahoe Basin, and the Forest Service regional manager told me it will take their review from 800 pages to 40 pages, and allow them to begin to get the forest there back to a sustainable level.
We made some big mistakes 45 years ago, and our forests have paid the price. This bill starts the long process of correcting those mistakes and recovering our national forests.
H.R. 2936 (Westerman) The Resilient Federal Forests Act passed the House of Representatives on November 1, 2017