H.R. 2647, the "Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015," would help the U.S. Forest Service more actively manage forests to improve habitat for game species, birds and other wildlife--while at the same time deterring catastrophic wildfire.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.).
"This bill contains many of the best forest management ideas to come before Congress in recent memory," said Morrie Stevens, Boone and Crockett Club president. "Among those ideas is removing administrative obstacles that handcuff forestry professionals."
Stevens said research supported by Boone and Crockett shows that overgrown forests are starving grounds for elk even in the summer when growth is greatest. Similar problems affect deer, game birds, and other wildlife. The portion of forests in this condition has been expanding for years, requiring a faster pace of restoration. A fact the Obama Administration itself has pointed out.
Part of the problem is the incentive to file lawsuits to stop projects is greater than the legal requirement to complete projects that restore forests. The forestry bill would give more weight to collaborative agreements. Failure to complete projects is fueling more overgrowth which, particularly in prevailing drought conditions, weakens trees, encourages insects like pine beetles to infest on a landscape scale, and builds forest fuels-all contributing to catastrophic wildfire seasons.
H.R. 2647 would, among other things, enable the Forest Service to carry out multiple forest health projects of the same kind based on a single environmental analysis, instead of having to repeat that process each time an action is proposed. The agency would also be able to rely more heavily on collaboration in developing projects, which would result in less legal gridlock before and after every decision.
In turn, more active forest management would supply funds for rural schools and for a revolving fund that helps speed faster planning of restoration.
"Sportsmen, with their boots on the ground, observation-based input have been at the forefront of natural resource conservation in the country for over a century," said Stevens. "Our national forests and wildlife need this one."
Stevens asked sportsmen to call their representatives, especially if they serve on the Natural Resources Committee, and ask them to vote yes on this bill on Thursday. Click here for a list of committee members.
Boone and Crockett is joining more than 30 other conservation and sporting organizations in supporting H.R. 2647.
The Club also is distributing an op-ed to newspapers across the country.