(Washington, D.C.) Congresswoman Cathy McMorris (WA-05) today voted for H.R. 4200, the Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act. She is a co-sponsor of this legislation that provides a commonsense approach to address forest rehabilitation following catastrophic events such as fires, tornadoes, wind storms, or insect epidemics.
“Eastern Washington has experienced a number of deadly forest fires and it is crucial that we have legislation to expedite the restoration process,” said McMorris. “Our forests, and the resulting timber, play an extremely important role in our region’s economy. Maintaining healthy forests is essential to those who make a living from the land and for those of us who use them for others purposes. This legislation will help our forests recover more quickly and efficiently from disasters.”
The Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act provides the necessary tools for a rapid assessment of damage and action to speed recovery efforts. The public forests in Eastern Washington span 2.6 million acres of land. Currently, the Colville Forest is dying faster than it is being maintained, leaving a large number of dead or dying trees susceptible to disease, insect infestation, and future wildfires. Following forest fires, the Colville National Forest has only been able to salvage five to ten percent of the lost timber value, compared to the Confederated Tribes of Colville who have been able to salvage 90 – 95 percent on their reservation.
Last summer’s School Fire, just south of Pomeroy, burned more than 50,000 acres of land. According to James Agee, a University of Washington forest ecologist and professor, the area burned by the School Fire likely will take about 150 years to grow back if left alone.
McMorris also spoke on the floor about the impact of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on Forest Recovery.
“Immediate restoration work on forests following catastrophic events is essential for reforestation and rehabilitation to be successful,” continued McMorris. “As the chair of the NEPA task force, I have unfortunately discovered that legal and procedural delays have become the norm, leaving vast areas of national forest land barren of trees for decades. This has lead to devastating impacts on wildlife habitat, soil stability and water quality.”
The legislation is endorsed by the 25,000-member National Federation of Federal Employees, the 15,000 member Society of American Foresters, and a coalition of organizations representing more than 12,000 firefighting professionals.