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Public Statements

GAO Report Finds Wildfire, Infestation, Disease Outbreak Have Led to Increased Need for Reforestation in National Forests

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Walden's forestry subcommittee holds oversight hearing on GAO findings

WASHINGTON, DC - The House Forests and Forest Health Subcommittee, chaired by U.S. Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR), today held an oversight hearing to review the findings of a report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Better Data are Needed to Identify and Prioritize Reforestation and Timber Stand Improvement Needs (GAO-05-374). The report found that the rise in acres of national forestland needing reforestation can be attributed to increased wildfire, insect infestation and disease outbreak, and that failure to accomplish reforestation work may result in increased costs, persistent brushfields, and even compromise the ability to meet forest management objectives such as the restoration of habitat for wildlife species.

"The restoration and recovery our federal forestlands are crucial to the long-term viability of our forests. Allowing stands to sit bare after a catastrophic event is wholly irresponsible. Species rely on healthy forests for habitat; erosion and run-off can contaminate watersheds; tourism and recreation drastically slow when forests are not vibrant and healthy; and any potential value to be had from the removal of dead and diseased trees to make way for reforestation quickly fades. We need to make sure that our federal land managers have the tools necessary to be the best stewards of our land, not the slowest," said Walden.

"This report also demonstrates the need to proactively manage our forestlands to prevent these catastrophic events from occurring in the first place. In a report given to the Committee in February, the GAO found that the Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HFRA) has been successful in accomplishing this goal, allowing federal forest managers to remove substantial fuel loads leading to better protection of species, watersheds and neighboring communities," he added.

"When you look at these reports together, it is clear that the management of our forests must be a multi-pronged approach. We need to move forward with policies that allow our federal forest mangers to engage in efforts reducing the threat of catastrophic events as well as recovering and restoring ravaged forests in a timely manner. Both of these are vital to the long-term health of our forests and their ecosystems. I appreciate the work of the GAO in producing this report on a topic vital to forestlands throughout the nation," said Walden.

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"I will maintain a continued dialogue with Agriculture Secretary Johanns, Interior Secretary Norton and my colleagues in the Congress as this committee takes further strides toward ensuring the health of our treasured national forests, not only for this generation, but for those to come," said Walden.


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