Today, Rep. Glenn 'GT' Thompson, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry, held a public hearing to review several aspects affecting forest health, including timber harvests, wildlife management, invasive species, and the U.S. Forest Service's planning rule.
Last month, the U.S. Forest Service released a report, which outlines the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) goals for forest health. In the report, the agency stated one of its goals is to increase annual timber harvests from 2.4 billion board feet to 3 billion board feet in fiscal year 2014. Subcommittee Members pressed Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell on how the agency intends to accomplish that goal while stressing the need to increase the number of timber harvests even more to create jobs, improve water quality, and prevent catastrophic wildfires from forming. Timber harvests have been in decline in recent years. The all-time high was 12.7 billion board feet in 1987, but dipped to its lowest level at 1.7 in 2002.
Witnesses on the second panel highlighted that more aggressive management practices are necessary, and more needs to be done to reduce the regulatory burden on those working in the forest products industry.
"The health of our national forests is an issue of vital importance for rural America. Not only are our national forests a source of immense natural beauty, but they provide us with natural resources, recreation opportunities, wildlife habitat, and serve as economic engines for local communities. It's important to all of us that we have an effective plan in place that promotes healthier national forests," said Chairman Glenn 'GT' Thompson (R-PA).
"We need to make sure the Forest Service and its partners work together to improve forest restoration and conservation while promoting a robust forest industry that supports local stakeholders and results in restored jobs and a vibrant rural economy. The Forest Service should always consider the multiple uses of our national forestland including timber production, habitat preservation, natural resource management and recreation and ensure local economic development and environmental protections work in harmony, instead of in competition, with each other," said Ranking Member Tim Holden (D-PA).