WASHINGTON, D.C. - Led by Congressman Bob Smith, Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, the Agriculture Subcommittee on Forestry, Resource Conservation, and Research today passed the Forest Recovery and Protection Act (H.R. 2515), Smith's nationwide forest health legislation to provide for better forest science, more agency accountability, and on-the-ground results that rehabiliate and protect America's precious forest resources.
Smith, whose Committee on Agriculture has held six hearings into forest health this year, was joined in introducing the Forest Recovery and Protection Act of 1997 by Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR), who will introduce a companion measure in the United States Senate, Rep. Larry Combest (R-TX), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Forestry, Resource Conservation, and Research, and Rep. Charlie Stenholm (D-TX), the Committee's ranking Democrat, among others.
"America's forest resources are extremely valuable, extremely sick, and extremely neglected. We can't wait any longer. We have to act, and act now. This bill moves the process forward, providing critical funding, demanding results, and creating agency accountability for the health of our forests. Perhaps most important, it insists that we base our work on the best available science. We're continuing to work with the Administration and hope to have their input as we refine the bill and prepare it for full Committee consideration early next year," Smith said today.
"Hailing from a district that has virtually no trees, I've been fascinated to find how critical proper management is to rehabilitating a resource in decline. This bill will make real, measurable improvements in this truly national resource and put greater, more effective tools in the hands of our land managers. I'm delighted the Subcommittee acted so quickly in approving the bill," Combest added.
The bill, which abides by all applicable environmental laws and forest plans, creates a five-year national program to address forest health, requiring the Secretary of Agriculture to identify, prioritize, and conduct forest recovery projects in high risk areas; creates a scientific advisory panel to help the Secretary administer the national program; enables the Secretary to immediately conduct forest health projects in those areas where there is sufficient science to move quickly; establishes a revolving Forest Recovery and Protection Fund to pay for forest recovery projects without requiring new spending; requires audits of the national program to ensure efficiency and results; and improves methods of inventorying forests to ensure that foresters have access to the best and most current data.
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District, which includes most of eastern, central, and southern Oregon, in the U.S. House of Representatives. The district is home to ten national forests.