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Forest Service Chief Agrees Active Management Necessary to Improve Forest Health-Chairman Smith Developing Forest Health Legislation

U.S. Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck, testifying at the fifth in a series of Agriculture Committee forest health hearings, today supported the concept of active forest management, saying the Forest Service must "use all available tools" to manage it's federal forests, effectively endorsing Congressman Bob Smith's (R-OR) direction on forest health.

At today's hearing, the Agriculture Committee examined forest conditions in the Inland West and Northeast. In addition to Dombeck, the Committee heard from a panel of state foresters, a panel of forest owners/users, and a panel of local wildlife preservationists. All witnesses, including Dombeck, agreed that active management is necessary to revive the health of our nation's forests after decades of decline.

"I'm delighted Chief Dombeck has publicly and enthusiastically endorsed the concept of active forest management and supported the principles embodied in the Oliver Report. I agree with his statement that the Oliver Report is an excellent starting point for rehabilitating our dead and dying forests," said Smith, the Agriculture Committee's Chairman.

"Doing nothing is not the solution," Dombeck testified this morning. "The most important point I'd like to make is that we must use all of the tools available to us in forest management and watershed management."

"The bottom line is results. All too often, the Forest Service hasn't gotten the job done on our nation's public lands. At some point, Congress has a duty to step in and do something about the health of our nation's forests, and I think we've reached that point," Smith said.

"I'm encouraged to hear that the Chief is willing to use all of the tools available to him to restore forest health, and we'll give him additional guidance and flexibility. After decades of declining forest health conditions nationwide, we can't just sit back and watch as entire forests are lost to disease, insects, and catastrophic fire," Smith said.

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 active forest management and favor large, unmanaged forest reserves are failing to produce environmentally beneficial results in a number of key areas.

Smith, who has made forest health a priority for 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.