Hearing on Restoration and Recovery of Forest Land after Hurricanes
Washington, DC - The Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, chaired by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), will hold a hearing tomorrow on Restoration after Recent Hurricanes and other Natural Disasters: The Federal Role in Recovery after Catastrophic Events Affecting Forest Lands. The hearing will begin at 9 a.m. in 1324 Longworth House Office Building and will have live video and audio broadcast via the Resources Committee website (http://resourcescommittee.house.gov/).
"Hurricane Katrina is the latest example of how catastrophe can have widespread impact on our nation's forestlands," said Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR). "In addition to wreaking havoc on environmental quality and habitat, such events can devastate local economies unless we engage in proactive measures to restore the health and vitality of these lands. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses to get a clearer picture of what the federal government can do to help the Gulf Coast region."
Hurricane Katrina made landfall with 140 mph winds on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama destroying over five million acres of agricultural land valued at roughly $5 billion dollars. Current estimates indicate a potential timber loss of 4.2 billion cubic feet of timber or 15-19 billion board feet. The impacts from Hurricane Rita have significantly added to the environmental and economic damage in the region.
The hurricanes literally devastated millions of acres of forests. The timber, now dead and dying, has created an enormous fire risk and has given way to noxious weeds, insects and disease.
"It is important to remember that our forestlands need to be responsibly managed after catastrophic events - including hurricane, fire, bug infestation, ice storm or blow down - so that they can stand tall and green for generations to come," continued Walden.
A majority of the timber impacted by Hurricane Katrina and Rita was privately owned tracts of agricultural land. Small property owners relied upon this land for their retirement, to pay college tuition fees, etc. Without the monetary value of these properties, many families are left without a major source of their income.
The subcommittee will examine the roadblocks and actions needed in the coming weeks and months to aid in the recovery of the timber and mitigate potential risks for wildfire and even more extensive insect infestation and disease. Witnesses will testify on a number of issues including logistics of providing a viable workforce, transportation costs and other economic factors affecting the harvest and removal of the dead trees, and the subsequent reforestation of the impacted lands.