McMorris Rodgers Speaks on Reducing Forest Fires

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) testified before a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Hearing on reducing wildfires and explained how through public and private collaboration, Eastern Washington is leading the way. In case you missed it, watch her remarks here:

McMorris Rodgers Rodgers Remarks as Delivered:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and building upon my neighbor from Oregon, I believe if Americans really understood the condition of our national forests, they would be outraged and they would be demanding more action.

We’re seeing it with the larger and larger catastrophic fires. Just to kind of put it into perspective, the U.S. Forest Service owns nearly 200 million acres. They estimate that 40 percent, so 80 million acres, of trees are dead, diseased, dying timber.

My neighbor in Oregon just highlighted the impact of carbon that’s being released because of the mismanagement. In recent years, my home state of Washington has faced catastrophic fires and these fires are so damaging. They hurt our health. There are dangerous impacts due to smoke. In Spokane, Washington, our air quality has been so bad that its off the air quality index. We can’t even measure it. And there’s no place to go. It really is a scary feeling when the air quality is so bad and there’s no place to go. It jeopardizes our safety. It is destroying our environment releasing dangerous emissions into the air.

We should all, Republicans and Democrats be able to come together to support healthy forests. When our forests are healthy it becomes harder for these fires to take off. But right now, we are not effectively managing our increasingly at-risk forests.

Unfortunately, decades of overregulation and frivolous lawsuits have stalled forest management and our ability to keep our forests healthy and we’re all paying the price. Over the last few years in Congress, I have been encouraged that we took steps to fix fire borrowing so we can better fight fires. We have worked to advance active forest management reforms to give communities more tools to improve the health of our forests. Last year, I introduced the Forest Act of 2019 to further promote active management of federal forest land.

There’s still more work that needs to be done. Local communities, tribes, states and the federal government should all play a role in actively managing our forests and reducing the risk of fire.

In Eastern Washington, which I am proud to represent, we’ve shown that local collaboration can work and what it can accomplish. We’re proud right now that on the Colville National Forest, a million-acre national forest in Northeastern Washington, we have the A to Z project which is a public-private partnership where local communities, conservation groups, the recreational community, industry, and the forest service teamed up together and awarded and contract for a 50 thousand acres over a 10 year period.

The Vaagen Brothers Lumber Company is managing this contract. They funded the environmental review process and we are reducing fuel loads by removing small-diameter logs. It’s working! If you want to come visit, we would love to have you! We had Chief of the Forest Service out last August. Many other groups are coming and seeing it and it works. Its been so successful that we are planning another A to Z project and its almost completed.

After decades of waring between industry and the environmental communities, these types of collaborative projects should serve as a national model for forest restoration that would improve our environment and the economy.

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