McMorris Rodgers introduces national forest bill

AP Photo/Jeff Barnard This 2011 file photo shows dense forest on a steep slope on U.S. Bureau of Land Management land outside Ruch, Ore. Several members of the U.S. have introduced a bill that would require a portion of each national forest to be managed to produce timber.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is introducing a House bill that she says will improve national forest health and reduce wildfire risks.

The Forests Act would require the U.S. Forest Service to identify areas in each national forest that should be actively managed and produce at least half of the sustainable timber yield in each management area each year.

The agency manages roughly 200 million acres of national forest, McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., told the Capital Press.

“It’s estimated that one out of three acres is dead, diseased, bug-infested timber,” she said. “The goal of this legislation is to unleash the economic engine many of these forests are and to really get us to a place where we have a much healthier forest and get our economics in those timber-dependent communities growing and thriving.”

The bill, HR 2178, has seven co-sponsors: Reps. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.; Dave Reichert, R-Wash.; Raul Labrador, R-Idaho; Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz.; Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine; Reid Ribble, R-Wis.; and Dan Benishek, R-Mich.

McMorris Rodgers said she is speaking with several senators about a companion bill in the Senate.

McMorris Rodgers says the likelihood the act will make its way through Congress is high. She credited now-retired Rep. Doc Hastings with laying the groundwork in previous bills, and said her act builds upon that work.

“There’s a growing recognition that we need to take action on the forest lands of this country,” McMorris Rodgers said. “In the West, we are facing larger catastrophic fires this year. The condition of the forests only contributes to more damaging fires and more devastation as a result of those fires.”

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