GOP & Dem coalition urges forest reform (before wildfire)

healthy-forests-logoBy Healthy Forests & Healthy Communities

With wildfire season approaching across the American West, there’s increasing pressure on the U.S. Senate to act on measures to restore the health of federal forests while creating jobs in rural communities.

A bipartisan coalition of U.S. House members earlier this week sent a letter pressing new Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Mary Landrieu (D-LA) to pass legislation to reform federal forest management policies.

Last September,  the U.S. House approved H.R. 1526, also known as the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, to overhaul federal forest policies to expedite timber sales and forest restoration programs.  The Senate so far has failed to act on national forestry legislation, including HR 1526 and Sen. John Barrasso’s National Forest Jobs and Management Act (S. 1966).

In their letter to Sen. Landrieu, the House members highlighted the need for reforms:

Federal forests throughout the nation protect and enhance our water supplies, provide habitat for wildlife and offer amazing recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, including hikers, bikers, fishers, hunters, and snowmobilers.  These forests also serve as critical resources for our nation’s timber industry, from loggers and sawmill operators to manufacturers of forest products and biomass and renewable energy.

Unfortunately, forest fires continue to threaten and destroy our national forests, threatening our water supplies and wasting valuable resources that could be salvaged through improved management. According to the Forest Service, 65 million acres of National Forest System remain at high or very high risk of catastrophic wildfires, with 65 to 82 million in need of fuels and forest health treatments- up to 42 percent of the entire National Forest System. Invasive species have also been crippling to forest health and cost the U.S. economy approximately $138 billion every year,

The overall health of our national forests is integrally tied with the industries that rely on this resource. Timber harvests in our national forests are down 80 percent over the last 30 years. While the Forest Service once averaged over $1 billion in revenues annually, it now spends $2 for every $1 it produces. The Forest Service must continue to make a concerted effort to meet timber sale goals and Congress should continue to advance reforms to assist in this effort. Click here to read the full letter.

With eight months left in the 113th U.S. Congress, time is running out to restore the health of our forests and rural communities. If you haven’t already, please take a moment to urge your U.S. Senators to support comprehensive reforms. Take a moment and click here to send an email to your Senators.

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