Barrasso: Healthy Forests Provide Wildlife Habitat, Support the Economy & Sequester Carbon

May 20, 2021

Click here to watch Ranking Member Barrasso’s remarks.  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), delivered the following remarks at a full committee hearing to examine the role of reforestation, active forest management, and carbon storage in fostering resiliency.

The hearing featured testimony from Ms. Jennifer Cover, president and CEO of WoodWorks – Wood Products Council; Dr. Thomas Crowther, scientific advisor to the United Nations’ Trillion Trees Initiative; Mr. Jim Irving, co-chief executive officer of J.D. Irving, Limited; Ms. Mary Mitsos, president and CEO of the National Forest Foundation; and Mr. Ben Wudtke, executive director of the Intermountain Forest Association. 

For more information on witness testimony click here. 

Senator Barrasso’s remarks: 

“Our forests play a vital role on so many fronts.

“Healthy forests provide habitat for wildlife, improve soil and water quality, and yield timber that is fundamental to our economy and way of life. 

“Healthy forests also sequester significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere. 

“At the same time, our forests have become a significant source of fuel for wildfires. 

“The lack of active forest management, has turned many of our nation’s forests into tinderboxes. 

“It’s created a perfect storm for widespread, catastrophic wildfires.  

“Last summer was a devastating wildfire season all across America. 

“In Wyoming, we had one of our largest wildfires on record. 

“The Mullen Fire wreaked havoc through Carbon and Albany Counties. 

“It was estimated to span 25 miles north to south, and 23 miles east to west, and burned over 175 thousand acres. 

“It forced numerous evacuations, destroyed dozens of homes and buildings, and left a price tag of almost 33 million dollars. 

“In addition to endangering lives, damaging property, and destroying habitat, the increased intensity and frequency of catastrophic mega-fires has disrupted many of the ecological benefits we gain from our forests. 

“These mega-fires have resulted in increased carbon emissions, and reduced air quality. 

“A Bloomberg story published in January, reported that California’s 2020 wildfire emissions were equal to the greenhouse emissions of over 24 million passenger cars. 

“If people are concerned about climate change, carbon emissions, and clean air, they should be very concerned about our burning forests. 

“Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen recently testified that her agency must accelerate its active forest management efforts, and that a ‘paradigm shift’ is needed now. 

“I agree completely. 

“According to the Forest Service, 63 million acres of our National Forests are at high or very high risk of being consumed in a catastrophic fire.   

“In addition, saw mills – which carry out hazardous fuels reduction projects – are struggling. 

“The Forest Service sells well below the ‘Allowable Sale Quantity’ of timber called for in its Forest Plans.  

“Continuing this practice is going to lead to more timber mills closing down. 

“This is going to hurt local economies, as well as leave our forests vulnerable to ongoing problems with fire and with disease. 

“In recent years, the Black Hills National Forest, which spans Wyoming and South Dakota, has failed to meet its timber targets. 

“Since our local sawmills rely on the national forest for most of their timber supplies, this failure has led directly to the closure of a sawmill in South Dakota. 

“Worse – some within the forest service are recommending further and permanent reductions in harvest levels on the Black Hills. 

“This would devastate our local mills and make it very difficult to manage timber in and around the forest going forward. 

“That’s why in March, I, along with the members of the Wyoming and South Dakota Congressional delegations, sent a letter to the Forest Service. 

“The letter outlines our concerns with the recommended timber for harvest reduction, and encourages better cooperation between the Forest Service and the local officials and stakeholders. 

“In addition to reducing emissions through active forest management, we should also be mindful of ways we can sequester carbon by planting more trees and vegetation. 

“We should also look for more ways to permanently store carbon in harvested wood products.  

“While I was chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, my bill, the USE-IT Act, was signed into law by President Trump. 

“This law supports groundbreaking innovation to address climate change through carbon capture and utilization technologies. 

“I believe there is ample room for increased carbon sequestered efforts in the forestry space as well.  

“I look forward to exploring that topic here at the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. 

“Thanks again, Mr. Chairman. 

“I look forward to today’s hearing and testimony.”