WASHINGTON, D.C. - A new scientific report showing that current federal policies for managing public and private forests nationwide are not achieving critical environmental results is powerful evidence of the need for a more creative, active management of the nation's forests, Congressman Bob Smith (R-OR), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, said today.
The report, prepared by an independent panel of highly regarded forest scientists, concludes 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.
"Reading this report, it's hard not to conclude that the present policy of large, unmanaged forest set-asides is failing. Whether it is healthy populations of wildlife and fish, or commodity production, the current laws and regulations are not meeting our desired goals. By not managing the forests, we are mismanaging them," Smith said.
"These are highly credible forestry experts, and their conclusions are powerful. I'm convinced that a new, more creative and active forest management policy is not only necessary, but inevitable if we are to maximize the benefits to our forests and our people. This report introduces a more innovative, integrated method of crafting policy and managing forests that could move us beyond conflict to better serving species, forests, and communities," Smith said.
"Last year, wildfires claimed 600,000 acres in Oregon, the vast majority of it on federal land. Resources were damaged, habitat was destroyed, air and water quality were degraded, and homes were lost. Hundreds of thousands of acres more remain exposed to a similar, or worse, catastrophe. This is a critical problem, a problem of frightening proportions; it has to be actively addressed, and now," Smith said.
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District - which includes most of eastern, southern, and central Oregon - in the U.S. House of Representatives. The district is home to ten national forests.