March 08, 2005

Crapo Calls For Quick Passage Of Forest Health Bills As Western Fires

Senator chairs Senate hearing opening discussion on forest initiative

Washington, DC - Western residents and forest ecosystems need the immediate help contained in the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003, Idaho Senator Mike Crapo told a Senate committee hearing he chaired today to open discussion on the bill. Crapo chairs the forestry subcommittee of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and said the billâ??s provisions to streamline forest management decisions are critical. â??We need to move the focus from what we take, to what we leave,â?? Crapo said in agreeing with Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth on how to manage the public lands. â??The wildlife seasons of 2000 and 2002 were the largest and most destructive in fifty years. The fires destroyed property, degraded air and water quality, and damaged fish and wildlife habitat. They cost billions to fight, and even worse, cost the lives of firefighters. The damage to the environment was severe and the cost to communities untold.â??Crapo said the damage from bug-killed trees and drought aiding fires in Arizona and New Mexico, along with the dead timber he witnessed near Coeur dâ??Alene and Elk City during a recent visit to Idaho have convinced him of the need to streamline management actions and deliver on promises he and other members of Congress have made to communities to get immediate help to improve the health of the forests. He noted even actions to thin timber to save communities like Elk City from fire remain on the shelf while fires burn in the Southwest. Crapo called forest health a national concern and pledged to craft a bill to reflect that need, saying 190 million acres of public land are at risk for catastrophic wildfire, insects, and disease.â??Some may argue for further delay, but the proof is all around us, in the fires, the threat to watersheds and species, and to human life,â?? Crapo said in chairing the hearing and spurring discussion among witnesses including fellow Idaho Senator Larry Craig; Jackie McAvoy, Post Falls, past president of Idaho Women in Timber; Mike Peterson, the Lands Council from Spokane; and Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey. McAvoy, a member of the Post Falls City Council, was making her second trip to Washington, DC, to meet with members of Congress. Last month, she, Crapo, and Craig met at the White House over the forest health bill. She, like Crapo, brought with her to todayâ??s hearing bark and tree samples from Idaho demonstrating the severity of health issues demanding attention in forest ecosystems.â??Almost twice the number of trees die on national forests in Idaho than on other forest ownerships, and that buildup of dead trees increases the fuel load in the forest, and with it the potential for severe wildlife,â?? McAvoy noted. â??Lethal fire potential-or fires that kill whole forests-has tripled on federal lands in Idaho and Montana.â??â??If any good can come out of the fires it is that Congress now recognizes that the status quo will not suffice and we must act to address the growing crisis,â?? Crapo concluded. â??Yet, this bill is about more than forest fires. It is about the very health of our forestlands. Fire risk is an indicator of a stressed ecosystem, as are insect infestations, disease outbreaks, and the encroachment of invasive species. They are all indications of an ecosystem that must be restored.â?? Crapo hoped the Senate would pass the forest health bill would pass the full Senate this summer. # # # FOR INTERESTED MEDIA: A radio actuality is available by calling 1-800-545-1267. Press 327 at any time during or after the greeting and instructions. If you encounter any difficulties with the system, please contact Susan Wheeler at the above number. You can also access the actuality through the Internet at www.senate.gov/src/radio/crapo.