Developing Responsible Forest Management Practices

Between 65 and 82 million acres of our National Forest System are in need of treatment to address forest health challenges such as fire, insect mortality, and invasive species. Most of this land is located within Western states. While these wildfires typically start as a horrific act of nature, a lack of responsible forest management allows them to grow at unrelenting rates, making it even more difficult for our brave men and women battling these infernos. It is absurd that we allow our forests to become powder kegs that invite bigger and hotter fires every summer. It isn’t a matter of if our beautiful nation’s forests are going to burn—it is only a matter of when.

It does not have to be this way. The biggest hindrance is the U.S. Forest Service bureaucracy in Washington, which caters to extreme interest groups that stop responsible forest management. Because the Forest Service refuses to permit hazardous fuel management projects in our forests, they are overcrowded with trees that go up in flames during droughts, and invite massive conflagrations. It would be far easier to thin the forest conscientiously in advance than resort to emergency fire suppression, which risks lives and property.

Special interest groups claim that we must lock up our forests, and tie the hands of local Forest Service administrators by threatening lawsuits every time a responsible forest management policy is proposed. This must stop. Not only do these policies lead to massive destruction of our forests and private dwellings within the forests. The environmental degradation these groups claim to want to avoid occurs on a massive scale through air pollution, water contamination, and destruction of species habitat. Additionally, wildlife populations depend on multiple age classes of forest stands. Overgrown and unhealthy forests stifle growth of habitat that is critical for elk, deer, and many other species of wildlife including wild turkeys, ruffled grouse, and small mammals.

We implore the Forest Service to unleash the creativity of their local forest rangers and administrators to prepare management plans that suit their specific needs, instead of catering to one-size-fits-all fixes that please extremists, destroy our property, and leave average Americans holding the bag of ruined land and forests that will not grow. Only a miniscule percentage of our forests are set to be thinned each year, which is insufficient, and will not solve this decades-old problem. A real solution to this problem is needed so we don’t sit back and watch even more of our beautiful forests get destroyed by relentless wildfires. The Western Caucus will advocate for legislation allowing more responsible, active management to begin solving the many challenges plaguing our national forests.

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