California Congressman Tom McClintock (R) has warned for many years: “Excess timber comes out of the forest one way or the other: it is either carried out or it burns out. From the inception of the U.S. Forest Service, we managed our public lands according to sound forest management principles. We prevented overcrowding by removing excess timber so that trees had room to grow healthy and strong. This assured not only resilient forests, but also a thriving economy throughout our mountain communities and an important revenue stream to the treasury that was available for additional improvements to the public lands.”
The following is from Rep. Tom McClintock (R): his remarks in the Federal Lands Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee Mark-up Hearing on H.R. 188, June 13, 2023.
The Proven Forest Management Act – H.R. 188 – extends existing law that was passed with bi-partisan support and signed by President Obama as part of the WINN Act in 2016. That law provided for a categorical exclusion from the National Environment Policy Act for forest thinning projects up to 10,000 acres under certain conditions in the Tahoe Basin.
H.R. 188 expands throughout the entire National Forest System the categorical exclusion for forest management projects that was secured for the Tahoe Basin in the 2016 WINN Act.
I want to thank the sub-committee for hearing H.R. 188.
H.R. 188, the Proven Forest Management Act, extends an existing law, passed with bi-partisan support and signed by President Obama in 2016. That law provided a categorical exclusion from the National Environmental Policy Act for forest thinning projects up to 10,000 acres under certain conditions, within the Tahoe Basin.
Under NEPA, a simple forest-thinning project requires an average of four years of environmental studies that produce reports often exceeding 800 pages. They cost millions of dollars to produce – often more than the value of the timber we are removing. Federal timber auctions that once produced millions of dollars to the federal government now cost money, so not a lot gets done. Federal timber harvests in the Sierra have declined 80 percent as a result.
The Lake Tahoe Categorical Exclusion has now been in effect for eight years. It has taken the review time for thinning projects from four years down to less than four months. It has cut the reports from 800 pages to a few dozen. Under this authority, the Tahoe Basin Management Unit has increased the removal of excess timber from one million board feet a year to an average of nine million board feet. Treated acreage in the Tahoe Basin has now tripled.
When the Caldor Fire broke out in 2021, it was out of control and bearing down on the City of South Lake Tahoe. But the fire hit a tract on the Pioneer Trail that had been treated under the new authority. It lay down and firefighters were able to stop it. South Lake Tahoe was saved.
The town of Grizzly Flats wasn’t so lucky. It’s next door in the El Dorado National Forest. For more than a decade, land managers have tried to thin the Trestle Project, that everyone knew was a clear threat to Grizzly Flats. It was held up by environmental laws and the endless litigation arising from them and still had not been undertaken when the same Caldor Fire incinerated the entire town.
The Amendment in the Nature of a substitute makes a few technical changes based on feedback from the Forest Service to ensure that this bill is successful at delivering better forest health results across the nation.
Specifically, it includes changes to ensure that all of our National Forests and public lands managed by the BLM will benefit from the expedited active forest management provided by this legislation. In addition, this ANS addresses some concerns raised by the Forest Service to ensure that responsible forest management projects do not suffer delays due to frivolous lawsuits.
Mr. Chairman, remember, only YOU can prevent forest fires. Maybe not all of them, but I can say with confidence that this bill will minimize many forest fires and save many communities from the catastrophe visited on towns like Grizzly Flats. Let’s not waste any more time.
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