December 03, 2007

Wyden Calls for Increased Thinning of Federal Forest Lands to Create jobs, Reduce Fire Danger, Improve Forest Health

Portland, Ore. - Senator Ron Wyden today called for new federal legislation to increase the thinning of trees on federal forest land as part of a comprehensive effort to create more jobs, reduce the danger of expensive forest fires and improve the health of timber stands.

"What I am proposing here today is a new initiative to address the bureaucratic and political roadblocks to thinning the millions of acres of choked, second growth forest all across our state, and put thousands of Oregonians back to work in the woods in the process," Wyden said in his opening address to the 6th annual Oregon Leadership Summit in Portland.

"There are many sectors where it is in Oregon's clear economic interest to pursue sustainable practices, but I can think of no more urgent need we face in our focus on sustainability than the need to aggressively pursue sustainable forestry management practices across this state's vast federal forest landscape," he said.

Wyden called for a new federal law to "shift the focus of federal land agencies from their current, unsuccessful focus on cutting old growth, to a new focus on addressing the horrific backlog of thinning in Oregon's federal forests."

"This is merchantable timber, and it makes undeniable sense for the environment and for Oregon's economy to break the gridlock and pursue an aggressive, new focus on sustainable forestry management," Wyden said.

Wyden, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests, will hold hearings this month on the backlog of thinning in Oregon and Washington forests. Early next year, he will introduce legislation aimed at "ending the gridlock that stands in the way of sustainable forestry management in Oregon."

Collaboration between timber companies and some environmental groups has resulted in a new focus on sustainable forest management in some national forests, Wyden said. "However, history has shown that we can't rely solely on good will and collaboration, particularly if we don't also find a way to discourage the cycle of endless administrative appeals and litigation that sometimes undermines even the most common-sense forestry management efforts."

"Every American has a constitutional right to challenge Federal decisions in a court of law, but no individual or organization has a constitutional right to a five-year delay," Wyden said.