Smith Intensifies Focus on Forestry, Forest Health; Extensive June Hearings Underway, Legislation Planned

Jun 9, 1997

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Bob Smith (R-OR), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, today intensified the Committee's scrutiny of forestry issues, opening comprehensive series of forest health hearings in June and continuing the Committee's effort to develop an objective, scientific evaluation of our nation's forests in preparation for potential forest health legislation.

Opening the first of the Committee's June forest science hearings, Chairman Smith pledged to pursue independent, peer-reviewed science. This morning's hearing - to receive additional peer review of a seminal forest health report authored by Dr. Chadwick Oliver and others -- will be followed by two region-specific forest health hearings. On June 12, the Committee will examine the state of forests in the Pacific Northwest and the Southeast; and on June 19, the Committee will examine forest conditions in the Inland West and Northeast. In early July, the Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on the federal government's Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Plan.

"We're quickening our pace and focusing the Committee's efforts on forestry more clearly and deeply than ever before. Federal neglect continues to put our forests at risk. By not managing our forests, we mismanage them. When we set aside and ignore vast forested areas, we not only put an end to public recreation and commodity production, but we limit our extensive ability to mimic natural occurrences and improve forest health, jeopardizing healthy populations of fish, trees, and wildlife," Smith said.

"The likelihood of forest health legislation that is national in scope is growing and that legislation will be based upon real, peer-reviewed science. Those who rely on and enjoy our national forests deserve a thoughtful approach to this issue, and I mean to pursue exactly that," Smith said.

Chairman Smith has made forest health a priority for the Agriculture Committee in the 105th Congress. In January, the Full Committee held a hearing in Sunriver, Oregon to learn about the state of forests in the Pacific Northwest. In April, the Agriculture and Resources Committees held a joint hearing to receive a report - the Oliver Report -- from an independent panel of forest scientists, concluding that while declines in forest health are, at least in part, a product of past management practices, present federal laws and policies which delay or forbid proactive forest management and favor large, unmanaged forest reserves are failing to produce environmentally beneficial results in a number of key areas.

According to the report, current policies fail to produce important environmental results, including 1) protecting against catastrophic natural events like uncontrolled wildfire, insect infestations, and disease, 2) protecting a full range of threatened and endangered species, 3) reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions, and 4) maintaining healthy and productive watersheds.

The Committee has also held a hearing to examine a Price Waterhouse report, finding that the Forest Service's timber road credit program does not constitute a subsidy to the timber industry.

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.