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The U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing April 11 to discuss several bills affecting the U.S. Forest service. Bills discussed included H.R. 1345, The Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Prevention Act, introduced by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.); and H.R. 1442, the Depleting Risk from Insect, Soil Erosion, and Catastrophic Fire Act introduced by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

“My bill provides the tools to allow the Forest Service to focus on small projects,” Gosar said. “This measure comes as many small counties are on the verge of insolvency and forests are becoming increasingly unhealthy.”

Testifying for the Obama administration was U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “While I agree with the goals of many of these bills, the administration opposes these particular measures,” Tidwell said. “I support a collaborative strategy… and an accelerated restoration strategy.” When pressed as to why the administration objected, Tidwell said that “…these are National Forests and these measures would take away authority from the Department of Agriculture.”

Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) asked why when the Forest Service is having trouble managing the lands they already have, they are requesting additional money for land acquisition and reducing the budget for management activities. Tidwell said that additional land acquisitions would help reduce administrative costs. “This doesn’t seem to be a good strategic plan,” Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) said. “I encourage you to revisit your request.”

Other members took a more passionate approach to expressing their frustrations.

“These people just don’t get it,” Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) said. “This is an embarrassment. People in rural communities depend on you… get your feet off their neck. People go to bed at night and pray lighting doesn’t strike or they will lose what little they have.”

“We don’t need your money; we need to you get out of our way.” Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) said. “There appears to be a disconnect… people don’t want you to help the way you want to… we’re all seeing a lack of results from the ‘collaborative process’.”

Posted in: Legislative News
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