Thompson: Agriculture Subcommittee Examines National Forest System Management and Impact on Rural Economies

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, U.S. Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry, held a public hearing to examine how the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is managing the National Forest System (NFS) and how this management affects rural communities. USFS Chief Tom Tidwell and Ken Kane, McKean County President of Generations Forestry, were among the witnesses testifying.

“Our National Forest system is currently threatened by land mismanagement, invasive species outbreaks, endless litigation preventing productive land use, including expanded timber harvests and natural resource development, and a host of other problems that result in fewer jobs, more fire-prone forests, and communities struggling to make ends meet,” stated Thompson. “The subcommittee brought together forestry stakeholders to identify obstacles to a stronger National Forest management system and ways to expand rural job creation through healthier and more productive forests.”

National Forest timber harvests have been in decline in recent years. The all-time high was 12.7 billion board feet in 1987, but dipped to its lowest level at 1.7 in 2002. This drop not only has a negative effect on forest management, but also results in tens of millions of dollars in lost sales at the detriment of local communities and the U.S. Treasury.

Tidwell fielded questions from subcommittee members on efforts by the USFS to increase multiple-use practices, including timber harvests, and also discussed a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) highlighting the agency’s goal to increase annual timber harvests.

“The economic impact of the lower harvest has led to a decline in the local hardwood lumber industry,” stated Kane. “Since 1995 the hardwood industry in the Allegheny National Forest region has declined over 50 percent. In order to maintain a healthy relationship between rural communities and National Forests, the National Forests should be managed using sustainable methods. This will assure the long term health of the National Forest, rural communities, the forest products industry and the adjacent private lands.”

“This process is about where we are today and where we need to be in order to have healthy forests and growing forest communities,” Thompson added. “I want to thank our witnesses for their testimony, including Mr. Ken Kane from Pennsylvania and Forest Chief Tom Tidwell. I look forward to working with the U.S. Forest Service and all local stakeholders as this subcommittee prescribes future policy reforms to improve forest management and expand multiple-use land practices.”

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