Congressional Field Hearing on Wildfires, Forest Management

(Washington, D.C.)  The House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health will be holding a hearing in Colville, WA on Issues Affecting Forest Health and Management in Eastern Washington on Monday, August 29, 2005 at 9:30 a.m.

Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) and Rep. Cathy McMorris (R-WA) will hear testimony on wildfire, forest health, tribal lands, and post-fire reforestation and restoration.

“Listening and learning from this hearing will help develop policy to support those who manage our forests, make their living on the land, and enjoy recreating within our national treasures,” said Subcommittee Chairman Walden. “I am working closely with Congresswoman McMorris and other Forest Subcommittee members as we continue to examine the issue of post-catastrophic events — windstorm, bug infestation, ice storms and wildfire. Like we did under the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, I hope to provide the tools to public land managers, enabling them to recover forests more quickly after a catastrophic event and to protect communities, water, and wildlife. As a native Oregonian, I like our forests green, not black.”

The Subcommittee will examine a number of issues including implementation of the Healthy Forests Initiative on National Forest System lands. Currently, harvest levels on the Colville National Forest are only half of the annual mortality and less than ten percent of annual growth, leaving a large number of dead or dying trees susceptible to disease, insect infestation, and future wildfires.

“Natural resources, especially timber, play an important role in our region’s economy,” said Congresswoman McMorris. “We hope to be able to address a variety of issues that will enable us to maintain our forests. The hearing will also provide an opportunity to discuss some of the problems caused by the recent fires in Eastern Washington, such as funding and salvage challenges.”

In contrast to National Forest System lands, the Colville Confederated Tribes have implemented an aggressive and proactive management plan for their tribal forest lands, harvesting approximately 81 million board feet of timber last year. The result is a more resilient and biologically diverse forest than on neighboring Forest Service lands. The hearing will examine these differences and analyze the reasons behind them.

“I look forward to hearing from tribal leaders about their successful efforts to protect and manage their forests,” said House Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-CA). “I also encourage tribes and the Forest Service to utilize the Tribal Forests Protection Act which allows tribes to work with federal agencies to protect both national forest and tribal lands on a more expanded and cooperative basis.”

Members will also explore issues affecting post-fire rehabilitation. Immediate restoration work on forest land following catastrophic events is often essential if reforestation and rehabilitation is to be successful. Unfortunately, however, legal and procedural delays have become the norm, leaving vast areas of national forest land barren of trees for decades. The resulting impacts on wildlife habitat, soil stability and water quality have been devastating. Quickly moving to capture the value of some of the dead trees following fire can help fund rehabilitation of the burned area and greatly contribute to successful long-term reforestation.

WHO: Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, U.S. House of Representatives

Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), Rep. Cathy McMorris (R-WA)

WHAT: Hearing on Issues Affecting Forest Health and Management in Eastern Washington – National Forests, Tribal Lands, and Local Communities

WHEN: 9:30 a.m., Monday, August 29, 2005

WHERE: Community Colleges of Spokane, Colville Campus 985 Elm Street, Colville, WA

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