If managed wisely, America’s national forests can provide wildlife habit, recreational opportunities, abundant domestic supplies of natural resources and support thousands of jobs in the timber industry.
Unfortunately, this year’s current wildfire season has produced several catastrophic fires that have resulted in the tragic loss of life and property. However, in many cases it’s possible to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire through proactive, healthy forest management. While factors such as prolonged drought continue to raise the risk of wildfire, it is imperative that the federal government actively address the one issue within its control: hazardous fuels. Unnatural, overgrown, and unhealthy forests increase the risk of wildfire. Active management helps protect and restore forests while also helping local economies and creating jobs.
The inability to use scientific forestry practices, such as selective and regeneration harvest, has led to deadly and catastrophic forest fires that endanger communities, hurt local economies and release massive amounts of emissions into the atmosphere. Overgrowth in our forests, bark beetle infestation and excessive litigation by environmental groups have all contributed to the increase in number and severity of forest fires.
Get the Facts:
- In 2012, wildfires burned 9.3 million acres, while the U.S. Forest Service only harvested approximately 200,000 acres. This means that 44 times as many acres burned as were responsibility harvested. The burned areas were not allowed to be salvaged.
- According to testimony by the U.S. Forest Service, 65-82 million acres of Forest Serve Lands are at “high risk of wildfires.”
- Our national forests have four to five times the amount of trees per acre compared to when Lewis and Clark ventured west. The density of the forests makes them more susceptible to wildfire.
- The cost of suppressing catastrophic wildfires has grown enormously in recent years. In fact, wildland fire management activities have risen from 13 percent of the Forest Service budget in fiscal year 1991 to now over half the annual budget. Projections indicate this trend will only increase as a result of hazardous fuels build-up.
- States have been much more effective at managing forest lands than the federal government. For example, the Washington Department of Natural Resources already harvested more than 10 million board feet of salvage timber from lands that were burned in last year’s fire season, and continues to produce timber from its state trust lands. In contrast, the U.S. Forest Service in Washington state never conducted salvage on any of the 300,000 acres of burned land that it manages.
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the logging, wood, paper and cabinetry industries have lost 242,000 jobs, or roughly 23 percent if its workforce, since 2006. This is largely due to the inability to properly manage our forest lands.
- Policies focused on preventing wildfires would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We lose millions of acres of our national forests to wildfire every year and these fires and their aftermath produce billions of tons of pollutants. A medium-sized fire can release 200,000 tons of CO2, and if the burned trees are left to decompose, several times that amount will be emitted.
Congressman Tipton Discusses Wildfire Amendment with KOA, KOA News (June 20, 2013)