Opening Statement: Subcommittee Chairman Frank Lucas: Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee Hearing: The Next Farm Bill: Forestry Initiatives
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
Good afternoon. I want to welcome everyone to today’s Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee hearing.
Today, we will continue our Farm Bill subcommittee hearings by discussing another important issue – our nation’s forests. Our nation’s forests are a great natural resource, and today we will examine Farm Bill provisions that work to ensure our national and private forests remain healthy and productive.
While I may not have as many trees in my backyard as some of my colleagues, we all benefit from healthy forests – timber, clean air and water, habitat, recreation, a variety of forest products and much more.
Since its creation by President Teddy Roosevelt, the Forest Service has grown significantly and now manages more than 193 million acres across 154 national forests and 20 grasslands, in 43 states and Puerto Rico.
Our forest lands—whether federal, state or private—are huge economic drivers in many communities. The Forest Products industry is estimated to employ 900,000 people and is among the top 10 manufacturing sectors in 47 states. Unfortunately, we have seen a decline in Timber harvested over the years. As timber harvest has decreased, so too have the jobs and local businesses connected to this natural resource.
I believe the U.S. Forest Service, housed at the Department of Agriculture, should return to its original purpose of conserving natural resources through sustainable use. In short—a working, productive forest.
In the 2014 Farm Bill, we made some meaningful reforms—from Good Neighbor Authority to addressing insect and disease concerns. These reforms were intended to help further the better management that our forests so desperately need.
However, there is more work needed to improve forest management in every region of the country. As the recent rangeland wildfires in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Colorado remind us, wildfires can wreak incredible havoc, destroying livelihoods along the way.
As a committee, we need to do everything in our power to give the Forest Service the flexibility to act to reduce fuel loads. Not only is the productivity of our forest and rangelands at risk, but also the lives of those who live and work on these lands.
As we begin these Farm Bill discussions, we cannot forget the importance of the private forest lands in all aspects of the Farm Bill. We should continue to support the voluntary conservation efforts our forest owners make on their lands, and we should continue to support innovation through advanced forest products and fuels.
I look forward to hearing from our panel on how we can better address our resource concerns, protect our private forest lands and get our national forests working again.
I now recognize Mr. Walz, for his opening statement.