LaMalfa calls for ‘fundamental’ change in forestry policy, cutting trees

Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., ranking member on the House Agriculture Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee, called for a “fundamental change in the mindset” of the U.S. Forest Service, including massive cutting of trees to avoid forest fires.

At a subcommittee hearing on farm bill forestry policy, LaMalfa noted that more than 5 million acres of forest land have burned this year with 80 large fires currently burning and said, “The forestry title of the farm bill must be used to increase the pace and scale of forest management. Rural and forested communities nationwide can either benefit from logging and proper forest management or they will suffer from mismanaged forests that threaten them and their towns with wildfire.”

He added, “Nothing short of a fundamental change in mindset will fix this crisis. The Forest Service must aggressively cut trees — the 10-year plan aims to thin and do vegetation management on 20 million acres of National Forest System lands, and an additional 30 million acres of other federal, state, tribal, and private lands — but the National Forest System consists of 193 million acres of land, so are we to sit and watch the remaining 173 million acres go up in smoke over the next 10 years?”

LaMalfa said he also believes the committee needs to address “the over-litigation of projects that the Forest Service needs to do to protect forests from catastrophic fire. For example, just at the end of June, a federal court stopped two projects that the Forest Service planned to do in Idaho, one entirely in the Wildland Urban Interface. This example is duplicated across the West ruining landscapes, putting lives at risk, and destroying rural towns. Over-litigation slows or stops necessary forest management, and sadly many acres that were tied up in lawsuits have now been completely burnt — destroying the forests and devastating downstream watersheds.”

LaMalfa explained, “The forestry title of the farm bill contains a variety of provisions, and we must expand the management authorities in this law.

“For example, the 2018 farm bill contained a renewal of the insect and disease categorical exclusion and expanded it to include hazardous fuels reduction. These should be increased in size. Our forests need it — for many acres it is too late as they have already been destroyed by high-intensity fire.

“Public lands are currently not good neighbors — they are tinder boxes waiting to go up in smoke. This committee must expand the Good Neighbor Authority to encourage partnerships with the Forest Service and the states, counties, and tribes that are most harmed by fire.

“We must also coordinate with private industry to add value to the timber and slash that must be removed from our public forests. The 2018 farm bill modified the Community Wood Energy Program and contained a research and development program to help encourage new markets and infrastructure for forest products and advance tall wood building construction in the United States, but we must also open new mills and other facilities and ensure that they have a consistent reliable source of federal timber that can be converted into useful products — they need at least a 30-year stream of logs from the Forest Service.

“The 2018 farm bill expanded authorities that focus the Landscape Scale Restoration program on cross-boundary restoration; and authorized new tools that allow for the collaborative treatment of hazardous fuels loads on bordering non-federal lands.

“We must continue this progress by expanding partnerships and authorities that allow for increased landscape-scale treatments,” LaMalfa concluded.

In her opening statement, Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., the subcommittee chair, said, “Forests not only sequester carbon pollution, but they can be critical to increasing land resilience to flooding, improving water quality, and promoting biodiversity. In addition, healthy forests support rural economies by providing good-paying jobs across the tourism, recreation, logging, and forest-product sectors. As such, farm bill programs that support innovation in wood products and efforts that make forest restoration more successful are key to promoting rural prosperity.”

Forest Service Chief Randy Moore described current Forest Service activities and said he wants to work with the committee “to ensure the Forest Service has the tools it needs to address the wildfire crisis as well as successfully implement the full breadth of the agency’s mission.”


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