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Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act Expedites Cleanup, Removal, Restoration

Location: Washington, DC

Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act Expedites Cleanup, Removal, Restoration
Thursday, November 3, 2005

WASHINGTON, DC - Nearly 100 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have joined together to sponsor legislation that would expedite the cleanup and restoration of federal forests after catastrophic events such as wildfires, hurricanes and windstorms.

The "Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act," HR 4200, was unveiled today at a news conference in the nation's capital. The measure is modeled after the Healthy Forest Restoration Act, which provides expedited procedures to protect communities from wildfires. Its introduction comes after nearly two years of hearings by the Forests and Forest Health Subcommittee of the House Resources Committee that focused on problems plaguing the nation's forests after catastrophic events.

"Today in America's forests, it can take three years for the federal government to cut a burned, dead tree after a fire. And by the time the decision is finally made, the trees have often rotted, become bug infested or lost most of their value. The Government Accountability Office reports that upwards of a million acres of forestland is in need of replanting. We can, and should, do better that," said Congressman Greg Walden, chairman of the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health.

Walden, a Republican from Oregon, and U.S. Reps. Brian Baird (D-WA), Stephanie Herseth (D-SD), and Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) are the principal authors of the measure.

"Unlike past attempts to address this problem, our legislation ensures that federal environmental laws are followed fully. It provides for public participation in the planning process, including the right to administrative and judicial appeal. It ensures that the underlying forest plans are followed. And it has safeguards to mitigate against environmental harm. But instead of requiring the agencies to develop multiple plans that can take years to get approved, we reduce the planning process to 30 days-a timeline the Forest Service says is reasonable for them to meet-and then follow the same appeals process as required under the Healthy Forest Restoration Act, which allows the public nearly three months to comment on the plan before a final decision is made," said Walden, whose district includes nine national forests.

"The Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act's expedited provisions are narrowly written and only apply to areas where emergency actions are needed. Further, the measure's expedited procedures apply only to dead trees. The measure doesn't apply in wilderness areas, national monuments or national parks," said Walden, who was a principal author of the Healthy Forest Restoration Act in 2003.

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