WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the House Committee on Agriculture considered and passed H.R. 4200, "The Forest Recovery and Research Act", as amended. This legislation has broad bipartisan support with 147 co-sponsors including both Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Minority Member Collin Peterson. The bill passed the Committee on a vote of 36 to 3.
In December 2003, Congress enacted the Healthy Forests Restoration Act so that professional foresters could treat forests and improve forest health to reduce the threat of catastrophic events such as forest fires or insect infestation. The Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act complements that Act by providing a mechanism by which the U.S. Forest Service can move quickly to restore forests damaged by catastrophic events such as fires, insect outbreaks, ice storms, or hurricanes.
"H.R. 4200 takes this to the next step by providing similar expedited procedures so that professional land managers can move quickly after catastrophic events to salvage damaged timber, protect soils, watersheds, and wildlife habitat and to more quickly begin the process of reforestation," said Chairman Goodlatte. "Even more significantly, this is accomplished without waiving a single environmental law or opening new areas to timber harvest."
The Committee adopted the Chairman's amendment in the nature of a substitute that included several technical changes as well as a provision limiting the extension of a Catastrophic Event Recovery Evaluation to 60 days and a provision to ensure that recovery projects follow existing guidelines for the retention of standing dead trees. Additionally, Rep. John Salazar offered an amendment to require the Forest Service to evaluate the potential to retrieve biomass for energy purposes. Rep. Salazar's amendment was agreed to and H.R. 4200, as amended, was ordered to be reported to the House Floor.
"Considering recent effects on our forestland from natural disasters, advancing legislation like this could not be more timely. Through it, an expedited restoration and research process would be established to prevent wasted timber, increased costs, and environmental effects. I thank Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Minority Member Peterson for moving this bill," said Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Dairy, Nutrition and Forestry Gil Gutknecht.
"As we face another potentially record-breaking fire season, it is important to be sure that land managers have all of the tools necessary to respond quickly and appropriately with recovery and restoration measures. This bill improves the process and paves the way for prompt evaluations after catastrophic events," said Ranking Member Peterson.
"The Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act will provide forest managers with the tools for a rapid response, rely on the experience of forestry professionals, and promote new research to improve forestry practices going forward. I am confident that this legislation will provide an effective framework to ensure that our forests can recover after a fire, hurricane, bug infestation or other natural disaster," said Rep. Stephanie Herseth.