Today, Rep. Glenn 'GT' Thompson, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry, held a public hearing to examine how the U.S. Forest Service is managing the National Forest System (NFS) and how this management affects rural communities. The NFS spans 193 million acres in 712 counties across 41 states.
Among the issues discussed were how 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. A recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) highlighted that an agency goal was to increase annual timber harvests and other restoration activities. Members asked Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell on how the agency's efforts were faring and how sequestration could affect those goals. Additionally, Members examined other issues impacting the NFS such as fire threats, invasive species, and the possibility of sequestration resulting in the closure of recreation sites.
Witnesses on the second panel highlighted that more aggressive management practices are necessary to improve forest management and rural job creation.
"Our National Forest system is currently threatened by land mismanagement, invasive species outbreaks, endless litigation against productive land use, including expanded timber harvests and natural resource development, and a host of other problems that result in fewer jobs, more fire-prone forests, and communities struggling to make ends meet. Today, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry & Energy brought together forestry stakeholders to identify obstacles to a stronger National Forest management system and ways to expand rural job creation through healthier and more productive forests. I want to thank our witnesses for their testimony, including Mr. Ken Kane from Pennsylvania and Forest Chief Tom Tidwell, and I look forward to working with them and the U.S. Forest Service as this subcommittee prescribes future policy reforms to improve forest management and expand multiple-use land practices," said Chairman Glenn 'GT' Thompson (R-PA-5).
"I was pleased to participate in a robust bipartisan discussion about forestry and the forest products industry. My focus is to ensure that federal funding for state and private forestry is well-spent and that our national forests are managed in a way that meets the multiple-use mission of the Forest Service," said Ranking Member Timothy J. Walz (D-MN-1).