Westerman Welcomes Western Caucus to Arkansas

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On April 8 and 9, Vice Chair Bruce Westerman (AR-04) and Chairman Dan Newhouse (WA-04) led a group of Western Caucus Members on a field tour of Arkansas’ 4th Congressional District.

“I was honored to have the opportunity to show so many members of Congress firsthand how Arkansans use our natural resources to their fullest potential,” said Vice Chair Westerman. “Through uniquely cooperative relationships with the National Forest Service and the National Park Service, Arkansas empowers a healthy economy and a healthy environment to the benefit of the community. In Arkansas, we prioritize the welfare of the land and the people above bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy. I am grateful to share Arkansas’ expertise with my colleagues to take back to their own districts.”

“Field tours like this are truly invaluable to our work in Congress,” said Chairman Newhouse. “As we saw firsthand, Arkansas’ world-class forestry practices are a model for the rest of the country – particularly those of us in the West who are plagued by decades of mismanagement. We also saw how recreation opportunities, from Lake Ouachita to Hot Springs National Park, benefit local economies. Arkansas’ 4th district truly is a unique and beautiful part of the world, and I am grateful Rep. Westerman invited us to experience his home state.”

Members witnessed how Arkansan foresters work collaboratively with private landowners, industry, and the federal government to manage the nearly 19 million acres of forestland across the state. They toured a non-industrial private working forest, a U.S. Forest Service plot within the Ouachita National Forest, and Weyerhaeuser’s state-of-the-art sawmill in Dierks. Additionally, the group visited Blakely Mountain Dam on the Ouachita River, which provides immense benefits to the region, including flood control, recreation opportunities, water supply, and hydropower generation.

Lastly, the Members visited Avant Mining to learn about Arkansas’ world-class quartz crystal mining and toured Hot Springs National Park, one of the smallest and most unique parks in the National Park System, which generates robust economic activity and brought over 2 million visitors to Arkansas in 2021.

Vice Chair Westerman and Chairman Newhouse were joined by Vice Chair Doug LaMalfa (CA-01) and Reps. Cliff Bentz (OR-02), Russ Fulcher (ID-01), Michael Burgess (TX-26), and Jay Obernolte (CA-08). Ahead of the field tour, they penned this op-ed for the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
 
Background:
 
Private industrial and non-industrial forests comprise 80% of the nearly 19 million acres of forestland across Arkansas. With 2.9 million acres of national forest in the state, federal forest management decisions impact everything from public land access to the local economy. The U.S. Forest Service implements a wide variety of management practices in the Ouachita National Forest, including prescribed burns, mechanical thinning, and timber sales.
 
Lake Ouachita, created by Blakely Mountain Dam, produces an excess of $28.5 million in direct economic benefits to the area while directly supporting over 740 jobs in the region. Hydropower production, outdoor recreation opportunities, and extensive flood damage reduction enhance the direct regional benefits derived from this project.

Hot Springs National Park was the first piece of land designated as a federal reservation in 1832 by President Andrew Jackson. The park is home to natural hot springs, which were once used for medicinal purposes, and is now home to Bathhouse Row, which is leased to private businesses and visited by millions of visitors each year.

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