To watch a video of Chairman Manchin’s questioning, please click here.
Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to examine the President’s budget request for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for fiscal year 2024. During the hearing, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Committee, discussed oversight of the agency’s spending of funds provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and how the USFS can better leverage partnerships to manage forests and public lands.
During the hearing, Chairman Manchin questioned Chief Moore about how the USFS can better leverage state partners through Good Neighbor Authority projects to help complete forest management work.
“Over the last 4 years, States have administered the sales for 1.1 billion board feet of Forest Service timber under your Good Neighbor Authority —this has a proven track record of working. However, I understand that just $28 million of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding has been allocated, thus far, for Good Neighbor Authority projects. Chief Moore, I would like the Forest Service to take advantage of the staff and resources that many States are willing to share. What portion of the $10.4 billion that Congress has provided to the Forest Service do you envision the States helping you manage?” questioned Chairman Manchin.
“I can’t answer that specifically but what I can tell you, though, to your earlier point, is that we have not produced less timber than we have in the past. In fact, we’re producing more than we have in the last ten years. Now, we accomplished about 2.9 billion board feet in 2022, and a part of the reason that we did not accomplish the 3 billion board feet that was our target is because of some of the fires that happened that burned through timber sales. This year, in 2023, our plan is to produce 3.4 billion board feet and we are on track to achieve that. Next year that’s going up to 3.5, and then we’re working toward a 4 billion board feet program. I think we are being really productive in that arena.” said Chief Moore.
Chief Moore continued, “The other thing that I’ve done, Senator, for the accountability piece, is that I’ve given each region a target. We are tracking that target every quarter to see how we are doing. I just had our mid-year reviews with all of our regional foresters, we are on target to achieve 3.4 billion, we may even go slightly over that.”
Chairman Manchin also asked Chief Moore about the $52 million requested in the President’s budget to accommodate telework.
“Just make me understand why you think you should be spending $52 million to make sure they don’t come to work,” said Chairman Manchin.
“I am not familiar with the $52 million, what I will say is that OMB [Office of Management and Budget] announced last week the order to come back to work. So, what we’re doing now within the Department of Agriculture is working to develop a plan within the next 30 days to see what that would look like, in my case the Forest Service, what does that look like for the agency within the department. We’ve just recently put a team together as of this week and we have begun to work on what coming back to work would look like. Ideally if we’re going to be working from home, we need to provide the resources available to work from home, but keep in mind that that was there before this decision was made last week, so we’re going to have make some adjustments based on the new decision,” replied Chief Moore.
To watch the hearing in full, please click here.