March 08, 2005

Crapo Introduces Forest Health Bill

Senate floor statement notes both forest bill and Idaho firefighter casualties

Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo and Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln today introduced bipartisan legislation seeking to improve the health of the nationâ??s forests and preserve ecosystems and jobs. The legislation, Americaâ??s Healthy Forests Restoration and Research Act, builds on a measure (H.R. 1904, the Healthy Forest Restoration Act), that passed the House of Representatives with widespread support. H.R. 1904 is scheduled to be marked up tomorrow by the Senate Agriculture Committee, on which Crapo serves. Much of the Crapo-Lincoln proposal is expected to be substituted for the House bill during that mark-up, which comes as Idahoans mourn the deaths of two firefighters in the Salmon area. â??While this bill demonstrates the need to address forest health risks in diverse forestlands across the country, Idahoâ??s lands and our people are reflected in much of the forest legislation I am introducing in the Senate,â?? Crapo noted. â??From the catastrophic fire threat around Elk City and the tragic death of two firefighters near Shoup, to layoffs facing Bonners Ferry mill workers, to the effort on new jobs we would create in Cascade involving the utilization of biomass products, this bill reflects much of what I have heard from Idahoans who manage, recreate, and rely on the land. â?? Crapo and Lincoln both serve in leadership of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Forestry, Conservation, and Rural Development-Crapo as Chairman and Lincoln as Ranking Member. Building on the House proposal, the Crapo-Lincoln bill is the only bipartisan bill before the Senate and recognizes that watersheds and endangered species habitats must be protected from catastrophic fire, but that fire is not the only risk to national forests-the threat of insect and disease outbreaks, which have left dead and dying trees across Idaho and Arkansas, must be addressed. The bill also expands the focus of research in the forests to include all threats to forest health. â??This bill comes at a time when forests along the Idaho-Montana border now are burning and Idaho lives have been lost fighting those fires,â?? Crapo said. â??While addressing the risk to communities as well as the threats to firefighters, air, water, and species, this bill promotes local economies. From promoting the awarding of contracts to local entities to offering grants for the commercial use of biomass and small-diameter materials, the bill promotes jobs in rural communities. The bill also expands market research and accelerates transfer of technology for small-diameter and low-value woods.â??The bipartisan bill also includes a grant program to address non-native plant, tree, shrub, and vine species. These invasive plants plague forests across the country and have changed the historic make-up of our forests and increased fire susceptibility. The grant program will help treat the fuel load presented by these invasive plants. Like the proposal from the House, the Crapo-Lincoln bill includes language to streamline the administrative and judicial review process regarding forest actions. â??Without compromising the publicâ??s ability to have input into the process and decision-making, the bill will allow work to get done on the ground and address the lawsuits and appeals whose only purpose is to delay and frustrate our ability to manage our forests. These changes are common-sense. Reducing the analysis paralysis is crucial if we are to see progress made in actually moving toward healthier forests,â?? Crapo said.â??We will include tribal members as partners under this proposal and we will broaden where and how federal agencies can work cooperatively with states and the public to take actions to reduce the risk of catastrophic fire to people, wildlife, and ecosystems,â?? Crapo added. â??It is essential we bring a new, cooperative and preemptive, can-do attitude towards improving the health of our forests,â?? Crapo said. â??We can restore both the health of our lands and the economic health of our rural areas by working together to reduce the amount of forest fuels by letting local managers and agencies carry out plans to improve our lands and watersheds. I look forward to talking to Idahoans and my fellow Senators about this bipartisan proposal.â?? Crapo concluded.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.# # #