U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today called for a national solution to systemic shortcomings in the management of the nation's forests to address the economic and ecological needs of forests and communities across the country.
"When it comes to forest management, we would all agree on both sides of the aisle, on and off this committee, that the status quo is unacceptable. It's just not working right now," Murkowski said. "As I see it, the best way to change the status quo is through a nationwide bill that addresses the roadblocks to increasing the pace and scale of forest management, including timber harvest."
Speaking Tuesday as the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee considered state-based forestry bills by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Jon Tester (D-Montana), Murkowski said the challenges posed by current forest management policies, which are strangling the economic life of small communities across the west, are shared by states from New Mexico to Alaska. Murkowski said place-based legislation may have its place, but that Congress needs to take up a national timber bill to address the growing problems across the country.
"The roadblocks are systemic in nature and not generally place-based or state-specific," Murkowski said. "They involve issues such as management direction and regulation -- for example, the roadless rule, the National Environmental Policy Act and other environmental laws, forest and resource planning, and, of course, litigation. Our focus in this committee with respect to forestry should be on a national bill."
Murkowski pointed to her home state and the impact reinstatement of the roadless rule in the Tongass National Forest was having on the economy of Southeast Alaska.
Murkowski brought Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell to Alaska in August to tour the Tongass with the goal of finding ways to increase the availability of timber, including a solution to the restrictions imposed by the roadless rule, to support Southeast's shrinking timber industry.
The failure of the federal land management agencies to support timber harvests has serious consequences for local communities across the West, Murkowski said.
Murkowski noted that in addition to boosting the market's timber supply and creating jobs, increasing timber harvests would reduce the frequency and severity of wildfires in the West.