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Legislation to Reform Federal Forestry Management Advances Through Committee


June 16, 2016
Thursday AM

(SitNews) Washington, D.C. - Yesterday, the House Committee on Natural Resources approved legislation introduced by Alaska Congressman Don Young (R) to reform the federal government’s system of forestry management in a manner that empowers local communities, builds resilient forests and streamlines burdensome management practices.

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H.R. 3650, the State National Forest Management Act, was introduced by Congressman Young on September 29, 2015. The bill, which will work to address what has been described as major failures of the nation’s federal land management agencies. The bill would also authorize states to select and acquire certain National Forest system lands, up to 2 million acres, to be managed and operated by the state for timber production and other purposes under the law.

“Nowhere in the nation are federal land decisions more destructive to communities and hardworking people than in the 17 million acre Tongass National Forest,” said Congressman Young. “What should be a straightforward and balanced process, given the size of the Tongass, the Federal Government has time and time again failed. In Alaska, we have a proven record of success in managing millions of acres of state parks and forests. H.R. 3650 will give states and local governments an opportunity to show they are in fact the best stewards of our lands. My bill works to address the major failures of our federal land management agencies, while giving our States an opportunity to do better. This proposal works to end the constant fighting between our forestry communities and the federal government by allowing us to resolve our differences at home."

Speaking on behalf of his legislation, Congressman Young presented a case for change in Alaska:

  • “In Alaska, the Tongass National Forest is 17 million acres, but through a series of Congressional withdrawals, Wilderness designations and administrative policy changes, the suited timber base available for management has declined to a mere 672 thousand acres – or 4%."
  • “The state manages only a tiny fraction of forestland in Southeast Alaska, about 50 thousand acres. The Tongass National Forest has sold only about 12% of its 267 million board feet annual allowable cut. The State has sold about 65% of the 12.1 million board feet annual allowable cut.”
  • “A state timber sale takes about 16 months to plan and offer, as opposed to 5 years for the United States Forest Service, largely due to NEPA. United States Department of Agriculture estimates that over 90 statutes govern management of the Forest Service, with conflicting mandates and exposing agencies to litigation.”

Young continued by criticizing the Forest Service as “the worst managing agency we have today as far as silviculture is concerned.”

"They don’t consider harvesting trees as part of their program, and they should,” said Congressman Young. “Consequently, we have no timber. We went from 15,000 jobs in Southeast Alaska – high paying jobs, to about 150 in my period of time. It’s because management means harvesting. Management has not been done by the Forest Service…They don’t manage them; they create parks, refuges and wilderness areas and preclude the involvement of local people. People are important too; people are important to the community.”

Included in the passage of H.R. 3650, was an amendment offered by Congressman Young to address a 2010 Forest Service decision to begin transitioning to young growth timber harvests in the Tongass National Forest; a decision Young argues fails to consider human and economic impacts. Young’s amendment would delay this unilateral action to transition to young growth, which Alaska timber harvesters say are grossly inadequate to meet the supply needs of even one Southeast Alaska saw mill, until a full inventory of young growth trees in the Tongass Land Management Plan has been completed.

Testimony of Viking Lumber sawmill operator Bryce Dahlstrom, Vice President of Transportation and Raw Materials of Viking Lumber in Klawock Alaska, told the committee there was not sufficient young growth timber in Southeast Alaska to support even a single sawmill, let alone an industry. (Click here to watch testimony from Alaskan Bryce Dahlstrom; click here for his full written testimony.)

“My amendment is common sense and forces the United States Forest Service to count the young growth trees before timber harvesters are forced to comply with this shortsighted deal,” said Congressman Young. “That’s wrong in the forest industry. Everybody will tell you that. This is an area that’s already been logged and they say we’re going to start an industry with small trees. I can’t believe they’d even think of that because when you harvest small trees, you don’t have any monetary goal at all. I think maybe they just want to say we’re selling so many million board feet, knowing full well and good that you can’t harvest them and make any money. Nobody will bid on them, and thus they say there’s no market for… If you want to save the forest, this [bill] is the way to go. If you want to save the timber industry, this [bill] is the way to go.”

As for as his amendment to delay transition to young growth timber harvests in the Tongass National Forest, Young stressed, "We don’t argue that we ought to have these young trees. But we don’t want to cut them when there’s no market for a young tree. We’re talking about a 14 inch tree, that’ll eventually – in less than 25 years – be a 36 inch tree. Why would you cut it when it’s 14 inches around and it has no value. And there’s no mill that can actually mill those trees because they’re too small.”

Young said the Forest Service has never explained why they came up with this idea. "It is not good forest management, it is a way to shut the timber industry down and kill my communities," said Young.

Young said, "I get very frustrated when I have my constituents – in small communities that are dying – because of no economy. We’re not talking about ruining the forests. We’re talking about 2 million acres out of 17 million acres of land.”


On the Web:


Committee on Natural Resources Rob Bishop Chairman
Mark-Up Memorandum





Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


Source of News:

Office of Congressman Don Young


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