Agriculture Committee Passes Healthy Forests Legislation: Bill Moves One Step Closer to Final Passage

May 8, 2003

Bill Moves One Step Closer to Final Passage

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Agriculture Committee today passed critical legislation to protect our nation’s forests from future catastrophic wildfires. Under the leadership of Committee Chairman Goodlatte, the bipartisan Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003 passed out of the committee by a voice vote.

“This legislation will promote the utilization of the sound science at our disposal to create healthy, sustainable forests,” Chairman Goodlatte said. “It will also do much to eliminate the maddening bureaucracy which impedes forest planners from doing their job.

“The threat that catastrophic wildfires, disease, insect infestation and invasive species pose to America’s forest ecosystems is tremendous. In addition to the environmental consequences of several seasons of devastating wildfires, there were human losses suffered as well. In 2002, hundreds of homes were destroyed and families uprooted, 23 firefighters lost their lives, and rural economies which depend heavily on tourism lost much needed revenue.

“The passage of this legislation out of the Committee is particularly timely given the fact that the fire season is rapidly approaching, and long term drought conditions persist throughout much of the interior West. The need for meaningful action has never been greater.”

“The Healthy Forests Restoration Act is a positive step towards responsible forest stewardship,” Rep. Gil Gutknecht, Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry said. “I’m pleased the committee is moving this legislation forward.”

"The imminent threat of catastrophic fires in our national forests has forced the Bush Administration and Congress into action,” Resources Committee Chairman Pombo, also a member of the Agriculture Committee, said. “Given the devastating effects of these wildfires, it would be irresponsible to leave outdated regulations in place and have bureaucracy to blame for the loss of another million acres, another home, or another human life. I am pleased the Agriculture Committee was able to work in a bipartisan fashion to approve this vital legislation."

In the hearing this morning the Committee also passed H.J. Res. 49, recognizing the important service to the nation provided by the Foreign Agricultural Service of the Department of Agriculture on its 50th Anniversary.