January 08, 2008

Wyden Says Pacific Northwest Forests in Trouble, Thinning Will Help Increase Forest Health, Reduce Fires, Increase Jobs

Medford, Or -- Thinning the Pacific Northwest's troubled federal forests will increase forest health, decrease the chances of catastrophic forest fires and create more timber industry jobs for Oregonians, Senator Ron Wyden said today.

"Thinning creates a healthier forest, a healthier economy and a healthier environment," Wyden said during opening remarks at a roundtable discussion on how to improve federal forests in the Pacific Northwest. "Trees going up in smoke do nothing for the quality of our communities, our air or our families. As chair of the Public Lands and Forest Subcommittee, I am committed to finding a solution that protects our treasures while meeting our needs for healthy forests and providing timber for our mills."

The roundtable discussion included representatives of federal forestry agencies, timber, recreation organizations, conservation groups and others. The roundtable in Medford and another earlier this week in Bend were are a follow up to a Public Lands and Forest Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C. last month.

"It's outrageous, even by federal government standards, that over half of the Forest Service budget is spent on fighting fires while tens of millions of acres of choked, second growth forests go un-managed, waiting to burn," said Wyden. "Government inaction, endless appeals, and poorly allocated resources have put communities, jobs and forests at risk like never before. If we are willing to work together toward bipartisan, sensible solutions, we can restore our forests, reduce the risk of catastrophic fire, protect old growth and ensure good, family-wage jobs for decades to come."

Wyden noted that The Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HFRA) authorized up to $760 million in new money to complete hazardous fuel reduction work on 20 million acres of federal forest land, but that only 77,000 acres had been treated.

"At that rate, it would take the Bush Administration more than 250 years to complete the Act's mandate," Wyden said. "I, for one, am not willing to wait that long.