March 23, 2016- Congressman McClintock is the Chairman of the Federal Lands Subcommittee. The subcommittee held a hearing on March 22, 2016 on “Examining the Spending Priorities and Missions of the Forest Service in the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Proposal.” Witnesses included U.S. Forest Chief Thomas Tidwell. Congressman McClintock delivered the following opening statement at the hearing:
Chairman’s Opening Statement
Subcommittee on Federal Lands
House Natural Resources Committee
March 22, 2016
Today the Subcommittee on Federal Lands meets to review the President’s proposed budget for the U.S. Forest Service for Fiscal Year 2017.
We meet at a time of crisis for our national forests. They are dying.
In my district that comprises the Sierra Nevada, more than 1,000 square miles of forest have been destroyed by catastrophic wild fire in the last three years. Those acres not destroyed by fire are now falling victim to disease and pestilence. It is estimated that 85 percent of the pine tree stock in the Sierra National Forest is dead or dying.
Forty years ago, Congress began imposing volumes of highly restrictive environmental laws with the promise they would improve the environmental health of our forests. Those laws, and the regulations and litigation that followed them, has made active management of the forests virtually impossible. The harvest of excess timber out of those forests has plummeted by 80 percent in the intervening years.
California’s national forests are now choked with an average of 266 trees per acre on a landscape that historically sustained 20 to 100 trees per acre. In the lower elevations of the Tahoe Basin, we have four times the normal density of vegetation.
The Forest Service itself estimates 40 million dead trees on federal lands in California last year, with an additional 29 million dying.
Trees that once had room to grow healthy and strong now fight for their lives against other trees fighting for the same ground. With that stage set, the drought pushed us past a tipping point.
After 40 years of these laws imposed with the specific promise to improve the environmental health of our forests, I believe we are entitled to ask, “How is the environmental health of our forests doing?”
The answer is damning. These laws and the ideologues who have administered them have not only destroyed local mountain economies that once thrived on the commercial activity of harvesting excess timber, they have devastated the forest environment.
Ironically, while the National Forests have been devastated, the private lands not subject to these policies are thriving. I have seen time and again in my own district – the private lands are properly thinned and maintained; they have proven resistant to forest fire; and when they have suffered damage, owners have quickly salvaged and replanted.
Inexplicably, at a time when the Forest Service has utterly failed to responsibly manage our forests, it seeks massive increases in funding to acquire still more forest land. That means transferring land from private hands, where it has been well managed, to the federal government that has spectacularly failed in its land management responsibilities.
The administration envisions expansion of Secure Rural Schools as a “tool to strengthen economic opportunities for rural communities.” Secure Rural Schools does not strengthen economic opportunities – rather it compensates rural communities for pennies on the dollar what they lost from the economic activities that these policies destroyed.
NFS management points out that fire suppression has become its greatest expense. The House addressed this last year in the Resilient Forests Act of 2015 that now languishes in the Senate.
The fact is fire expenses will grow every year until we restore sound forest management practices to our national forests and that in turn will require very different policies than those presented by the forest service today.
These laws not only prevent us from timely and economical removal of excess timber, they even prevent us from salvaging fire-killed timber and replanting. Millions of dead trees on thousands of square miles of the Sierra alone must be removed and the acreage replanted. Yet environmental restrictions make even salvage cost prohibitive.
Even without these laws, it will cost an estimated $1,600 per acre to remove dead wood and replant the acreage already destroyed. This is where our funds should be going – not to acquiring still more land to mismanage.
Removing commercially viable excess timber before it can burn should yield about $300 of direct federal revenues per acre per year if the forests were properly managed. If directed toward reclamation, we could have healthy forests again in a matter of years.
All that stands in the way is failed public policy. This congress stands to change that policy. And I would respectfully counsel this administration to lead, follow or get out of the way.
Source: Congressman Tom McClintock
A North Idaho legislator has introduced a bill, now known as HB437, that would divert 85% of the OHV sticker revenues away from IDPR and direct that those funds go to counties, as designated by the purchaser, for use at the county level on OHV-related programs. If this bill passes, trail maintenance and related work would shift from IDPR to the counties, so we would no longer have the state trails program, or the state education program, and would instead have 44 different programs spread across the state working independent of one another.
The Idaho Recreation Council has decided to oppose this bill in order to preserve the IDPR-administered trail ranger, and education programs.
Listed below are the members who serve on the House Transportation and Defense Committee. We need to let them know that we do not support the bill and why.
Please distribute to everyone, and if we can get clubs or associations to take a position that would be great. We realize this is all moving quickly so that may not be possible. If you are from North Idaho, and don’t support the bill, please share that at the beginning of your message.
We know we don’t have to say this but please be polite and respectful. Most of the legislators have no understanding of how the program works, so this is our opportunity to explain it and why we support it.
Thanks for all you do! Now get busy and send a message.
If you have any questions, let us know.
Joe Palmer email@example.com Boise District 20
Paul Shepherd firstname.lastname@example.org Riggins District 7
Rich Wills email@example.com Glenns Ferry District 23
Linden Bateman firstname.lastname@example.org Idaho Falls District 33
Terry Gestrin Tgestrin@house.idaho.gov Donnelly District 8
Brandon Hixon Bhixon@house.idaho.gov Caldwell District 10
Clark Kauffman email@example.com Filer District 25
Kelly Packer firstname.lastname@example.org McCammon District 28
Rick Youngblood email@example.com Nampa District 12
Patrick McDonald firstname.lastname@example.org Boise District 15
Sage Dixon email@example.com Ponderay District 1
Steven Harris Sharris@house.idaho.gov Meridian District 33
James Holtzclaw Jholtzclaw@house.idaho.gov Boise District 20
Jason Monks Jmonks@house.idaho.gov Boise District 22
Phylis King firstname.lastname@example.org Boise District 18
Dan Rudolph email@example.com Lewiston District 6
Melissa Wintrow firstname.lastname@example.org Boise District 19
Winston Churchill said wars are not won by evacuations. They are won in the trenches. . . in the grit and grime of courageous determination. . . in the arena of life, day in and day out. Our wars do not require us to pack a gun or dig fox holes but rather to attend meetings, write letters and make phone calls—to be actively involved.
To all of you who never give up, I thank you for all you have done this year and for all you will do in 2016. We have made a difference and will make an even bigger impact next year!
P.S. Don’t forget the IRC Meeting on January 9! A great way to start the year.
• The Location for the meeting is Best Western Vista Inn and Conference Center 2645 Airport Way, Boise. (not far from the Kopper Kitchen).
• The time is from 10:00 am to 3 pm as usual.
• The reason for the meeting is because, as usual, there are so many important issues facing recreationists! Also, the legislature goes into session and there is at least two pieces of legislation that need to be discussed. Your input is desperately needed.
What we need from you:
• Please let us know if there are any agenda items you want included
• RSVP by January 4 so we have a count for lunch and for room set-up
Thank you for all you do and we look forward to seeing you on January 9th! IRC is what it is, the most influential recreation organization in Idaho, because of you and your willingness to be involved! You have done amazing work but you have probably noticed, it isn’t over! Stay involved because we need each other.