Wednesday, August 7, 2013
There are more than 9 million acres of federal forests in our state alone.
Many of our communities are in close proximity to federal forests, and we are all too aware of the wildfire risks.
Ensuring proper management of forests is critical to preventing wildfires and important to the long-term health of our forests and communities.
The federal government made a commitment more than 100 years ago to actively manage forests and provide a percentage of revenue from management to counties containing national forest land. However, as we are seeing in Wenatchee and Goldendale, the failed attempts by bureaucratic Washington, D.C. agencies to actively manage our forests have real and dire consequences.
Rural communities no longer have stable funding to pay for vital services. Thirteen years ago, the Secure Rural Schools Act was intended to be a short-term solution to continue to provide funding as timber sales declined.
With a national debt measuring in the tens of trillions of dollars, the program is becoming increasingly difficult to finance, especially when it fails to address declining forest management.
These communities cannot afford the status quo. Police units don’t have the resources to respond to emergency calls, school districts are laying teachers off and communities are being left to crumble.
A new approach is needed.
The government’s lack of forest management has cost tens of thousands of American jobs.
In the last 10 to 15 years, it has not been uncommon to pick up a newspaper in the Pacific Northwest and read of yet another timber mill shutting its doors. Instead of people going to work managing our forests, they are heading to unemployment lines.
The lack of active forest management has caused significant forest overgrowth and degradation and made them increasingly susceptible to bug infestations and wildfires.
Our national forests can and must be managed more effectively. We can’t continue to sit idly by.
This week, the House Natural Resources Committee, of which I am chairman, approved House Resolution 1526, Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, a bill I introduced to address these problems.
My bill, which has bipartisan support, renews the federal government’s commitment to manage forest resources.
This is a long-term solution to put hard-working Americans back to work and to restore the economies of rural communities.
This common sense approach will help our forests remain healthy, turn forest timber into economic opportunity, produce revenue, reduce the risk of fires and increase local and state management of our forests.
I’m hopeful the full House will soon consider this vital legislation to restore active forest management.
Our communities, our families, and our businesses deserve better than the status quo and the current failure of federal forest management.
Rep. Doc Hastings represents Washington’s 4th Congressional District, including part of Okanogan County.