The long-standing, controversial issue of healthy forests came into focus again on the floor of the U.S. House Tuesday afternoon. Congressmen from around the West, including Oregon Republican Greg Walden, shared stories aiming to show the way forests are managed needs to change.
The group said the number of large wildfires, like the Rim Fire in California, happen because of poor management of the forests.
"We are watching more than 400 square miles of the Sierra Nevada incinerated," said Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif. "We now consign the forest to a policy of benign neglect."
Walden says the current forest policy is hurting rural counties and jobs. He says timber harvest on federal lands has dropped in the state 90 percent since 1990.
"Over the last 30 years, we have lost three-fourths of our mills and 30,000 mill jobs," Walden said. "The Forest Service now spends more fighting fires than anything else. Yeah, change their name to the U.S. fire service! We've got to get back to managing these lands!"
The bill is expected to be on the House floor in a month, and between now and then, lawmakers will be working hard to drum up support. Walden said he has worked with Oregon Democrats in Congress to come up with a balanced plan.
Walden said the Restoring Healthy Forests For Healthy Communities Act (H.R. 1526) would renew the federal government’s commitment to manage federal forests for the benefit of rural communities, improves forest health, and helps prevent catastrophic wildfires like the ones we saw burning across the West.
The bill also contains the O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs plan offered by Walden and two of his colleagues from Oregon, Reps. Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader. Their proposal would create jobs, provide revenues to failing Oregon counties, help sustain the local manufacturing base, and save the federal government hundreds of millions of dollars.
To read the full bill CLICK HERE.