Congressman Greg Walden

Representing the 2nd District of Oregon

FOREST SERVICE CHIEF, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR SUPPORT BIPARTISAN FOREST EMERGENCY RECOVERY AND RESEARCH ACT'S RESPONSIBLE APPROACH TO LAND MANAGEMENT

November 10, 2005
Press Release

OSU College of Forestry dean, former Jackson County commissioner and an Oregonian representing the United Brotherhood of Carpenters also testify before House panel that H.R. 4200 would benefits to forests, communities

November 10, 2005 - Washington, D.C. -
The Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, and the Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget today testified in support of the bipartisan Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act’s common sense approach to land management during a legislative hearing in the Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health.  Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), who sponsored the bill, invited Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) to participate in today’s hearing.  Baird, who is not a member of the Subcommittee, was a lead cosponsor of the legislation along with Rep. Stephanie Herseth (D-SD), a member of the Subcommittee. 
 
Chief Dale Bosworth and Assistant Secretary Lynn Scarlett told Walden that their agencies support H.R. 4200, which would give federal land managers the ability to more quickly address recovery of national forestlands damaged by a catastrophic event – such as fire, ice storms, windstorms or hurricanes – if expedited action is necessary for the health and restoration of the forest.
 
“We believe H.R. 4200 would provide some innovative authorities to improve the ability of the Secretary to promptly implement recovery treatments in response to catastrophic events affecting federal lands…The Department strongly supports the goals of the legislation and its intent to get recovery actions accomplished promptly while focusing on maintaining sound environmental decision-making and public involvement,” Chief Bosworth told members of the Subcommittee.
 
In her opening statement, Assistant Secretary Scarlett testified that “procedural delays under current laws still prevent timely implementation of recovery and restoration activities.  Failure to undertake timely recovery actions after these events has adverse environmental, economic and community impacts.  H.R. 4200 helps agencies avoid these impacts by providing tools to agencies to expedite recovery and restoration activities.”
 
“The talented professionals managing federal forestlands on a daily basis have become all too familiar with the devastation that can occur following a catastrophic event.  And unfortunately, they have become all too familiar with an inability to responsibly and promptly restore the health of those forests due to process restraints and a system bogged down by litigation and appeals.  We heard from both Chief Bosworth and Assistant Secretary Scarlett that the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, which was enacted in 2003, has helped mitigate the threat of catastrophic wildfire through hazardous fuels reduction, but that land managers need additional tools to address forest needs after a catastrophe does hit,” said Walden, co-author of the bipartisan Healthy Forests Restoration Act.
 
“After two years of hearings on this issue and a great deal of thoughtful and collaborative work with my colleagues in the Congress and professionals in our forests, I have introduced this legislation to help restore both the environmental and economic health of forestlands and communities,” he added.
 
The Subcommittee also heard testimony in favor of the legislation from Dr. Hal Salwasser, Dean of Oregon State University’s College of Forestry; Denny Scott, Assistant Organizing Director for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America; Peter Kolb of Montana State University’s extension forestry program; Stanford Adams of the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources; and Sue Kupillas, Executive Director of Communities for Healthy Forests and former Jackson County Commissioner.
 
Both members lauded H.R. 4200’s provisions enhancing public-private cooperative relationships.  “Certain post-fire situations require a rapid coordinated response in order to assure effectiveness of recovery and restoration efforts.  Moreover, the environmental threats typically do not stop at ownership boundaries.  Treatments limited to one side of a jurisdictional boundary may be less effective than actions coordinated within a broader ecosystem,” testified Scarlett. 
 
Bosworth added, “Equally significant are the bill’s provisions for working across boundaries, particularly with local communities, Tribes and state agencies.  Often highest priority recovery needs are those that directly benefit private lands and neighboring jurisdictions.”
 
During a question-and-answer portion of the hearing, Scarlett raised the issue of the Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act’s strong provisions aimed at improving the body of peer-reviewed scientific information available to land managers, policy makers and the public on post-catastrophic event restoration of damaged forests.  Chief Bosworth echoed her sentiments by testifying that
“The bill’s provisions on research protocols, monitoring and forest health partnerships would improve the environmental quality of decisions through continuous learning and adaptation while forging partnerships between managers, researchers, communities and interested citizens.”
 
The Department of the Interior has jurisdiction over the Bureau of Land Management, which has approximately 55 million acres of forest and woodlands; the Forest Service is part of the Department of Agriculture and contains 191 million acres of forestland.
 
Walden, 48, represents the people of Oregon’s Second District which is more than 70,000 square miles of eastern, central and southern Oregon and includes nine national forests.  He was one of the original authors of the successful Healthy Forest Restoration Act which provides federal land managers with a quicker system to reduce the threat of fires around communities and throughout the forests.