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Smith Plans Major Legislative Effort on Public Lands Grazing, Forest Management; Legislation, Product of Numerous Hearings, Consultations, Nearing Introduction

Oregon Congressman Bob Smith, Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, today announced that he will soon introduce legislation to provide greater stability in the grazing of livestock on public lands and to embark on a proactive effort to promote forest health and protect forests from future degradation, two major legislative initiatives with broad implications for the country and the American West.

Smith, who also serves on the House Committee on Resources, will introduce his bills on grazing and forestry within weeks, and hopes to pass them through the relevant House committees and on the House floor before Congress completes its first session in late Autumn.

Reporters and editors interested in public lands grazing and forest management are urged to contact Dave Redmond or David Spooner with the Committee on Agriculture's Communications staff at (202) 225-4050 for further details and to prepare for the bills' introduction.

"If there's one word that describes the natural resources community, both in the West and throughout the country, it's instability. We can provide greater stability and inject more common sense into the way we manage certain public lands, while protecting and even enhancing the public resources. We have the ability to apply sound scientific principles, to maximize the values for which public lands are managed, and to reduce the inevitable conflicts on those lands. But we have to think and act creatively and proactively. We can no longer be spectators, we can no longer be content to watch," Smith said today.

"Throughout the West, livestock producers are at the administrative whim of bureaucrats who literally hold sway over their lives and livelihoods. It's time to give those producers the ability to tell the banker that they can depend on a grazing permit, that a federal bureaucrat can't jerk the rug out from under him. It's long past time that rural Americans be able to depend on laws, not the judgments and prejudices of bureaucrats, in the management of public lands and their local economies," said Smith, who has consulted with ranchers, environmentalists, and other Members of Congress in drafting The Forage Improvement Act of 1997.

"We know our forests are in a deplorable state and have watched as the Forest Service has been paralyzed by bureaucracy. It's the job of federal agencies to act in times of crisis, not to observe. Throughout our exhaustive hearings on forestry this year, it was clear that we have the scientific know-how to improve forest health and maximize the values we all cherish. The Forest Recovery and Protection Act of 1997 will bring action, sound science, fiscal responsibility, and above all, accountability to the management of our national forests," Smith said.

Smith, who has made forest health a priority for the Agriculture Committee in the 105th Congress, 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.