ICYMI: Westerman Testifies on Need for Greater Forest Management Funding
WASHINGTON – Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04) testified Tuesday (February 28) before the House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee on the need for greater funding for forest management programs and on-the-ground scientific research.
“There are no negatives to a healthy forest system,” Westerman said. “Healthy forests provide clean air and water, sequester carbon at greater rates, promote recreational opportunities, and increase biodiversity. They also produce a steady supply to our nation’s forest products industry, which employs 2.8 million people nationwide along with an annual payroll of $87 billion, accounting for 5.7% of total US manufacturing.
“Unfortunately, the US Forest Service has moved away from its original mission of managing our national forest system in a scientifically sound manner, and that includes a dramatic decrease in timber harvesting. For example, last year, the Forest Service sold a mere 3 billion board feet of timber—around ¼ the amount sold 30 years ago.
“The result of this shift in focus is clear. Drought and overcrowding leave the forests susceptible to insect and disease infestation, and make them more vulnerable to catastrophic wildfires. These fires destroy wildlife habitat, radically alter ecosystems, decrease carbon storage, and force taxpayers to pay hundreds of millions of dollars annually in increased fire suppression costs.
“Therefore, it is time for the Forest Service to return to its core mission, and place a greater emphasis on scientific management, which includes more timber harvesting, mechanical thinning, and prescribed burns.”