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House of Representatives Overwhelmingly Approves Bipartisan Forest Emergency Recovery & Research Act

Walden, Baird's common-sense land management legislation to help restore forest health, enhance research now heads to the Senate

PRESS RELEASE:  May 17, 2006

 

Washington, D.C. - In a bipartisan show of support for more responsible forest management policies in America's national forests, the U.S. House of Representatives today passed H.R. 4200, the Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act, by a vote of 243 to 182.  The bill-authored by U.S. Representatives Greg Walden (R-OR), Brian Baird (D-WA) and Stephanie Herseth (D-SD)-would give federal land managers the tools necessary to restore forestland damaged by catastrophic events in quicker manner, without waiving environmental laws, if quick action is found to be beneficial to the long-term health and recovery of the forest. 

Four amendments to the legislation were considered during today's debate.  Although Walden and Baird did not support the amendments, all of which were soundly defeated, both Congressmen encouraged the Rules Committee to allow for their consideration to add additional dialogue and openness to the debate.  The legislation now heads to the Senate. 

"Our common sense, bipartisan legislation came to the House Floor after nine committee hearings across the country, more than fifty different drafts, and overwhelming support by both the House Resources and House Agriculture Committees," said Walden, who chairs the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health and represents a district that includes nine national forests.  

"Thousands upon thousands of foresters, scientists, firefighters, local government officials, and private landowners agree: federal forestland managers need the authorities provided by the Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act for the future of America's national forests.  The professionals who manage and protect our forests on a daily basis support this legislation because it allows them to use their expertise, hands-on experience and practical knowledge to make timely and responsible decisions necessary to improve the health, vitality and safety of our national forests," he added. 

"The passage of this bill is a victory for responsible, common sense policy.  The bottom line is, people use wood - to build homes, to make paper - and that wood needs to come from somewhere.  We can use wood from trees that are dead or dying, or from trees that are alive and healthy.  We can responsibly harvest wood here at home, abiding by environmental protections and creating jobs, or we can get our wood from clear cuts in equatorial rainforests where the environment is far more fragile and environmental protection and labor laws are far weaker or even nonexistent," Baird said. 

"This legislation will enable us to utilize dead timber instead of letting it go to waste and to responsibly restore the health and diversity of our forests after a catastrophic event like a fire or hurricane," Baird added.   

H.R. 4200 would provide tools and authorities to federal land managers for the rapid assessment of damage in forestlands following catastrophic events.  If swift restoration work is necessary to restore the health of our nation's forests, expedited - but thorough - environmental review of proposed actions would be performed by the agencies, including full public notice and participation.  Land managers would then be able to engage in active management practices relating to the dead and dying timber left in forests, restoring landscapes, removing excess fuel loads, improving water and air quality, and preventing additional reforestation backlog, estimated in a May 2005 Government Accountability Office report at one million acres. 

A broad variety of groups have endorsed H.R. 4200, including the Society of American Foresters, National Association of Counties, National Association of State Foresters, National Federation of Federal Employees Forest Services Council, Federal Wildland Fire Service Association, National Association of Conservation Districts, National Association of Forest Service Retirees, Communities for Healthy Forests, Evergreen Foundation, National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition, and many others.

The Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act would:

         Limit the removal of timber to trees that are down, dead, broken or severely root sprung, where mortality is highly probably within five years of the event;

         Require thorough environmental review, including full evaluation of the environmental effects of a catastrophic event recovery project;

         Increase the amount of peer reviewed scientific research conducted and made available to the public, federal land managers and policy makers;

         Use the same guidelines for public notice, appeals and judicial review established in the overwhelmingly bipartisan and effective Healthy Forests Restoration Act;

         Require agencies to work in cooperation with states, local governments, tribes, land-grant universities and non-governmental organizations in the development of projects;

         Strictly prohibit the creation of permanent roads in forestlands and call for the immediate obliteration of roads used in restoration efforts;

         Require an expedited National Environmental Policy Act procedural review and mandate compliance with all environmental laws including the ESA, Wilderness Act, Clean Air Act, National Forest Management Act, Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, and others;

         Strictly prohibit the replanting of forest plantations; and,

         Save taxpayers $21 million during from 2007 to 2011.

More information on the bill can be found at www.walden.house.gov or http://thomas.loc.gov.  Rep. Walden represents the 2nd District of Oregon; Rep. Baird represents the 3rd District of Washington.

 

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