When I became Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee in January of this year, I had one primary goal: to ensure that America’s farmers and ranchers have the policies in place that they need to feed, fuel, and clothe the nation while ensuring stability and consistency for farmers, ranchers, consumers, markets, and rural communities. After all, agriculture is the foundation of our livelihood and the lifeblood of rural America. And, while our work will never be done, we are off to a great start.
Chairman Praises House Passage of Forest Recovery Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House approved H.R. 4200, Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act (FERRA), with large bipartisan support in a vote of 243-182. The bill provides a mechanism to quickly restore forests damaged by catastrophic events such as fires, ice storms, or hurricanes. The House Committee on Agriculture held a hearing to review the bill in December 2005 and favorably reported it out of Committee in early April.
Over one million acres of national forests are in need of reforestation and the number steadily increases with each catastrophic fire, storm or insect epidemic. Areas in need of restoration are more susceptible to forest fires, invasive species and insect outbreaks. FERRA would enable land managers to engage in active management practices to restore forest health by removing excess fuel loads and dead and dying trees, improving water and air quality, restoring landscapes and species habitat, and preventing a further backlog of reforestation projects.
“I have worked in close cooperation with my friends and colleagues on the House Resources Committee to develop a careful, balanced, and common-sense approach to forest recovery that has garnered wide bipartisan support and strong endorsements from professional foresters, firefighters, and local officials. I am pleased that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle recognized the great need for this legislation and passed this important bill to better ensure the health of our nation’s forests,” said Chairman Goodlatte.
The Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act would provide federal land managers with the tools to rapidly assess damage in the wake of catastrophic events. This legislation follows the same guidelines for public notice, appeals and judicial review established in the Healthy Forests Restoration Act and requires thorough environmental review, including evaluation of the environmental effects of a catastrophic event recovery project.
FERRA not only provides the Forest Service with the tools to respond quickly to disasters, it directs the agency to develop pre-approved practices that will undergo a rigorous peer-review process, and be subject to public notice and comment. FERRA also strongly emphasizes the need for research, and provides that 10 percent of the revenues from any timber removed for a recovery project be dedicated to research on forest recovery. This bill addresses the strong need for further research and is equipped with its own funding mechanism to drive this research.