Washington, D.C. – Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today pressed the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to take immediate steps to increase timber harvests and improve forest management, while maintaining important environmental protections.
“Let me be clear: Our objective is to get harvests up without sacrificing bedrock environmental values,” Wyden said. “You only need to look at the massive wildfires that are burning through beetle-infested stands and threatening homes to see the consequences of failed management.”
Wyden asked officials from the U.S. Forest Service and Interior Department to examine three areas that have been obstacles to effective forest management: budgeting for forest treatment and harvests; reducing the cost of environmental reviews; and reducing the number of lawsuits and protests after projects have been finalized.
The Forest Service, for example, spends about 18 percent of timber project costs on overhead and administration – nearly double the average for other U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies. Directing money away from offices and into the forests could allow for tens of thousands of acres in additional timber sales.
Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell pointed to successful large-scale restoration efforts – known as landscape-scale projects – as one model for addressing concerns voiced by Wyden and several other members from both sides of the committee.
Wyden also questioned Ned Farquhar, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management at the Department of the Interior, about the unique circumstances surrounding Oregon’s O&C Lands. Wyden is finalizing legislation to increase harvests, permanently protect Oregon’s treasures, and break the stalemate over managing the O&C Lands. Farquhar cited the principles Wyden laid out last year as an important step to finding a solution.
“Having public agreement on principles when you start that process, I think, is very important,” Farquhar said.
Oregon State University Professor Norm Johnson testified at the hearing about successful projects by the Eugene District of the Bureau of Land Management that reduced the number of protests.
“They have made their case that these actions have ecological benefits and they have economic benefits,” Dr. Johnson said.