Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee Chairman Glenn 'GT' Thompson: Hearing to review the National Forest System & active forest management

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Washington, DC, April 29, 2015 | comments

Remarks as prepared:

Good afternoon. I want to welcome everyone to this hearing of the Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee. 

The health of our national forests is an issue of vital importance for rural America. Not only are national forests a source of immense natural beauty, but they provide us with natural resources, healthy watersheds, recreational opportunities, and wildlife habitat. But, perhaps most importantly, they serve as economic engines for the surrounding local communities. Our national forests are capable of providing and sustaining these economic benefits, but they need proper management in order to do so, which is the topic of today’s hearing: to review the National Forest System and active forest management.

The U.S. Forest Service manages more than 193 million acres of land across 41 states. Within those 41 states, there are over 700 counties containing national forest land. These counties and the communities within them rely on us to be good stewards of these federal lands; and there is a direct correlation between forest health and vibrant rural communities.

The people living in these rural areas depend on well-managed national forests to foster jobs and economic opportunities. These jobs can come from diverse sources such as timbering, energy production, or recreation. However, if those jobs disappear, so too do jobs that support those industries. It is a snowball effect from there, threatening school systems and infrastructure in these rural communities. Thus, effective management and Forest Service decisions have significant consequences on our constituents who live in and around our national forests.

Healthier, well-managed national forests are more sustainable for generations to come due to the continual risks of catastrophic fires and invasive species outbreaks. Especially with the decline in timber harvesting and revenue to counties from timber receipts over the past two decades, rural economies will benefit immensely from increased timber harvests. We can continue supporting a diverse population of wildlife through active land management practices, such as prescribed burns. Our national forests are not museums and were never intended to sit idle. I say it frequently, but national forests are not national parks.

When Congress created the National Forest System more than a hundred years ago, it was designed so that surrounding communities would benefit from their multiple uses. Our national forests are meant to provide timber, oil and natural gas, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, and clean drinking water for rural communities across America.

The 2014 Farm Bill provided the tools for the Forest Service to successfully manage our national forests and help boost economies of surrounding communities. These provisions allow for expedited planning and projections as well as reauthorize programs to allow the Forest Service to streamline projects, such as timber sale and restoration projects, or projects across neighboring jurisdictions.

I want to welcome Chief Tidwell and thank him for again appearing before us today, and I look forward to hearing more from him on how these Farm Bill programs are being implemented. I also look forward to hearing from our second panel of witnesses today. We have a wide variety of stakeholders who will tell us what they think the Forest Service does well and what they should be improving upon. We will hear how active forest management not only jumpstarts the rural economy, but also helps wildlife species and prevents or reduces the impact of fires. I thank each of our witnesses for taking the time to be here today. I also would like to welcome Sue Swanson of the Allegheny Hardwood Utilization Group in Kane, PA.

I now recognize the ranking member, Ms. Lujan-Grisham, for her opening statement.

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