Walden Testifies Before Agriculture Committee on Forest Recovery Bill; Announces Conservation, Outdoor Organizations Have Rallied Behind Act
Groups representing millions of members endorse Act's "commitment to timely responses to catastrophic events" in federal forests
During testimony delivered today at a hearing in the House Committee on Agriculture, Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) announced that a coalition of twenty-two state and national conservation organizations have endorsed the Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act, H.R. 4200. Walden, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, authored the bill and introduced it last month with Congressman Brian Baird (D-WA), who also testified at the hearing. Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) are both original cosponsors of H.R. 4200.
Written to give land managers the tools and authorities necessary to responsibly restore the health of federal forests damaged by catastrophic events in a timely manner, the Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act earned the support of these conservation organizations because it "would enhance the ability of our membership's ongoing efforts to protect and improve habitat, responsibly manage and conserve fish and wildlife and ensure the overall health of our forest ecosystems," according to a letter sent to Walden yesterday by the organizations.
"As Congressman Baird and I crafted this legislation, forest health was our number one priority. We used the knowledge and experience of land managers, scientists, foresters and experts to help determine what tools are necessary to responsibly and quickly restore forest health without compromising environmental standards, which are so critical to habitat and water quality. The Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act allows federal land managers to better accomplish goals of forest health while also providing economic benefit to local communities through the utilization of dead and dying trees before they rot and lose all value," said Walden.
Among the conservation groups who endorsed H.R. 4200 were the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Bear Trust International, Boone and Crockett Club, Conservation Force, Campfire Club of America, Wildlife Management Institute, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, National Wild Turkey Federation, North American Bear Foundation, Quality Deer Management Association and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
The groups lauded the Act's "commitment to timely responses to catastrophic events by allowing for rapid restoration of ecosystems, utilization of damaged trees before they lose economic value, protection of adjacent lands from subsequent wildfires, insect infestations and disease outbreaks, and the opportunity for public participation in recovery planning is consistent with our members' expectations and is simply common sense."
"We support the bill's provisions to increase scientific research on the best methods to recover ecosystems damaged by catastrophic events. Finally, the provisions that provide for involvement of state, local and tribal authorities in evaluating damage from catastrophic events and formulating appropriate response plans ensures that the interests of local communities, conservation organizations and adjacent landowners are heard and considered," their letter continued, indicating the coalition' strong support for the bill's research and cooperative partnership provisions.
"I appreciate the support of the many individuals and organizations who understand the importance of this common sense legislation to the long term health and vitality of our national forests," said Walden. "Their sentiments echo what so many Oregonians believe - that timely and responsible action on forests is sometimes the best course, but that our talented land managers are often unable to get the work done."
He told the Committee, "People in Oregon don't accept the notion that it should take three years to remove a burned dead tree after a fire. And yet, all too often that's what happens. Currently, in Oregon, only about 5% of burned federal lands receive any restoration treatments. This is particularly disturbing given that approximately 12 million acres in my state are at high risk for catastrophic fire."
Walden concluded his testimony by saying, "As an old Eagle Scout, I still hear the words of my scoutmaster who would tell us kids to leave your campsite better than you found it.' That's what we did with passage two years ago of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, and that's what we will continue to do with passage of the Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act. We will leave our forests in better condition than we found them, treading lightly on the land, protecting water quality and enhancing habitat, while using the fiber from dead trees while it still has value."
More information on H.R. 4200 can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov.
Walden, 48, represents the people of Oregon's Second District, which covers more than 70,000 square miles of eastern, central and southern Oregon and includes nine national forests. He was one of the original authors of the successful Healthy Forest Restoration Act which provides federal land managers with a quicker system to reduce the threat of fires around communities and throughout forests.