Administration Turns Blind Eye To Dying Forests

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Today, in a Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Oversight Hearing, U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) grilled Obama Administration officials over its opposition to her bill, H.R. 5192, the Forest Ecosystem Recovery and Protection Act.

“The state of forests in Wyoming and the West is cause for great alarm. The bark beetle epidemic has reached proportions never-before seen, and it shows no sign of stopping. The Forest Service has estimated that 100,000 trees are falling every single day in our forests.  Over 3.5 million acres of forested land in Wyoming are already dead from bark beetle infestation, and areas in the West that have not typically been in danger of outbreaks are squarely in the beetle’s path today. The unfolding crisis is not only heartbreaking, it is dangerous.

“I collaborated in good faith with the Obama Administration’s own forest experts on my bill, and ultimately produced legislation that gives these experts what they have been asking for. Today, the Obama Administration overruled their own experts, and testified in opposition to the bill – even provisions that the Forest Service themselves had asked to be included.  Today’s testimony, which I believe was forced onto the Forest Service, makes it clear the Administration is not willing to listen to experts on the ground, and cares very little about the fate of our forests. National Forests in Wyoming and the entire West are suffering from the Administration’s lack of conviction.  While the President makes political calculations, trees are falling, and the beetles’ march continues. 

“I believe the Forest Ecosystem Recovery and Protection Act strikes the right balance. I know that not everything in it will be agreeable to all parties, but I stand ready to work with anyone – Republican or Democrat – to modify this bill, or craft a new one that will set us on the path to forest ecosystem recovery and protection.  Sadly, the Obama Administration is not interested in collaboration.”  

Background:

To date, bark beetle kill has affected 21.7 million acres of forest in the western United States.  According to Wyoming State Forester Bill Crapser, who testified during today’s hearing in support of the Lummis bill, 17 million acres across the West, and 3.5 million acres in Wyoming alone are dead due to bark beetles. While bark beetle outbreaks are a naturally occurring phenomenon native to North America, the current outbreak is the largest in recorded history.

The Forest Ecosystem Recovery and Protection Act:

  • Requires the Forest Service to develop, in full consultation with state officials and private industry, 25 large-scale and long-term demonstration projects in 12 Western States.  The projects will focus on two specific goals: 1) recovery of areas already destroyed by beetle kill and 2) protection against future outbreaks in green forests.  Each project will be locally-driven, and tailored to the needs of each specific forest.

  • Requires the Forest Service to update its Forest’s Desired Future Conditions report to establish a strategy for dealing with insect and disease outbreaks.

  • Makes use of previously-passed, bipartisan language to allow for a thorough environmental review, but also recognizes that the sooner we act on these forests, the healthier they will be.

  • Borrows from other good ideas from both Democrats and Republicans to increase the tools available to forest managers.  For example, the bill makes use of Senator John Barrasso’s (R-WY) language to allow state foresters to partner with the Forest Service to help tackle the enormous backlog of work that must be completed on our forests.  It also includes ideas by Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) and Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) on allowing woody biomass removed from these sites to be counted as renewable under the nation’s Renewable Energy Standard.

  • Allows the Forest Service to designate particularly dangerous parcels of beetle-killed forest as emergency areas, triggering authority to remove dead and dying trees quickly and efficiently to head off catastrophic fires.

  • Offers tangible incentives to help the forest products industry build infrastructure and be assured of a long term commitment by the Forest Service – an issue of particular importance in a time when the timber industry – a critical partner in the fight to recover and protect our forests – is in dire straits.

Source: Office of Cynthia Lummis

Posted by Kaci Switzer

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