Issue Position: Environment
I am a strong advocate of the prudent use of our natural resources; the thoughtful conservation of our national historic, cultural and natural treasures; and the restoration of forest health in Arizona. By putting these principles into practice we can protect Arizona's environment and improve our quality of life. .
Forest and Rangeland Health
One of my top priorities continues to be restoring the health of Arizona's forests, which include the largest stands of ponderosa pine in the world.
Regrettably, as a result of decades of well-intentioned, but unwise, fire-suppression practices and forest-management policies, our forests have become overgrown, packed with dense underbrush and numerous small trees that deny older, larger trees the water and nutrients to continue to grow. The dense growth also weakens the forest, making trees more susceptible to insect and disease damage, and more prone to devastating, high-intensity "crown fires," which can melt soils, destroy wildlife habitat, and disrupt watershed functions. As we have seen far too often in recent years, such fires can also threaten human lives and property.
Effective science-based restoration will help restore the health of our forests and return them to their pre-settlement, park-like state, where low intensity fires can regularly clear the forest floor of debris and permit trees to grow to great size. I support the promising techniques that the U.S. Forest Service and Northern Arizona University are utilizing to improve the health of Arizona's national forests.
President Bush's Healthy Forests Initiative, launched in 2002, helped streamline the federal regulatory process to expedite the application of these important restoration techniques. Congress, too, has built on that initiative, passing the Healthy Forest Restoration Act in late 2003. The President's initiative and the congressional legislation have enabled the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior to work more productively with state and local leaders to plan and conduct science-based forest restoration projects. In fiscal year 2006 alone, the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior treated a total of 222,391 acres of forest in Arizona.
To facilitate these treatments, the low-value small trees that are thinned and the other woody biomass and wood products that are harvested must be utilized in productive and economical ways. One important, emerging use of such wood products is in the production of biomass energy, a more environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels. The development of such energy will also help boost rural economies. Arizona received two related woody biomass grants in 2006 to promote these activities.
Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program Act
This year, I reintroduced the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program (MSCP) Act. Cosponsored by Senators Ensign, Feinstein, and Reid, the bill would fund the federal government's share of the cost of a comprehensive, cooperative effort among 50 federal and non-federal entities in Arizona, California, and Nevada to protect and maintain wildlife habitat along the Colorado River. The bill would also provide assurances to the affected water and power agencies of the three states that their river operations may continue as long as they comply with the conservation program.
Southwest Forest Health and Wildfire Prevention Act
The Southwest Forest Health and Wildfire Prevention Act, which I sponsored and which became law in 2004, created three institutes to promote the use of adaptive ecosystem management techniques and work with land managers to design and implement science-based forest-restoration treatments. That measure will help produce the science to do effective restoration, using the applied research approach of the institute model employed at Northern Arizona University. To follow the implementation of the Act, visit http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/partnerships/institutes/index.shtml.
Petrified Forest National Park Expansion
In 2005, I received the National Parks Conservation Association's "National Parks Achievement Award" for my role in securing the enactment of the Petrified Forest National Park Expansion Act. The measure, which President Bush signed into law, expands the park to include an additional 120,000 acres of checker-boarded federal, state, and private lands to protect against theft of petrified wood and fossils, pot hunting, vandalism to petroglyph sites, and the environmental degradation caused by mineral exploration.
Yavapai Land Exchange
In 2005, the President signed into law the Northern Arizona Land Exchange and Verde River Basin Partnership Act, commonly known as the Yavapai Land Exchange. That measure, which I sponsored along with Senator McCain, was supported by the Nature Conservancy, the Central Arizona Land Trust, and the Arizona Antelope Foundation, among others. It will preserve nearly 25,000 ecologically significant acres in the headwaters of the Verde to protect the watershed, safeguard wildlife habitat, and provide outdoor recreation for future generations. Under the exchange, a 110 square-mile-area in the Prescott National Forest near the existing Juniper Mesa Wilderness will be consolidated under Forest Service ownership to preserve it in its natural state and prevent its subdivision and development. The new boundaries will also include the largest stand of privately owned ponderosa pine forest along with one of Arizona's last untouched antelope valleys.
Other Environmental Initiatives
Some of the other initiatives which I've helped to pass include: appropriations for the Yuma National Heritage Area, the expansion of Saguaro National Park, and the federal acquisition of other environmentally sensitive lands for preservation purposes; legislation to expand the boundaries of Walnut Canyon National Monument; and measures to restore the health of our state's treasured forests.
I helped secure the following federal funding to continue to restore forest health in Arizona, expand wastewater treatment plants, restore riparian habitat, improve flood control and increase public recreation opportunities:
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT