Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015

Floor Speech

Date: July 9, 2015
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BENISHEK. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of H.R. 2647, the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015.

I represent northern Michigan, which has over 20 million acres of Federal, State, and private forest land. Our forests are a vital part of the economy in northern Michigan that generate over $16.3 billion per year and creates more than 77,000 jobs. In addition to forestry, the outdoor recreation industry also contributes $18 billion to Michigan's economy and over 190,000 jobs to our State.

Healthy forests are vital to our way of life in northern Michigan. Like most in my district, I grew up exploring these forests, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling. It is a way of life for so many, not only for those who live up north, but for the millions who visit the forests every year from all around the country.

Sadly, many of our Federal forests are in a state of disrepair these days; they are overgrown, and especially in the Western United States, they are consumed by wildfire.

The Forest Service, which is entrusted with managing 10 percent of the continental United States land base, has identified approximately 58 million acres as being at high risk for catastrophic fire. Even worse, by conservative estimates, over 56 billion board feet of timber have simply burned away in wildfires on Forest Service lands over the last 10 years.

Over the past 10 years, over a billion dollars of timber rotted on the stump instead of being sold. Those revenues aren't available to the U.S. Treasury. The Forest Service couldn't use the funds to buy seedlings to replant our devastated national forests. We are literally allowing jobs for American families to burn away in our poorly managed Federal lands. Nothing about the current process is working.

H.R. 2647 takes some very simple steps to allow our forests to become healthier and better managed for the future. This bill would streamline timber harvesting on Federal forests in existing land use plans, while reducing the threat of frivolous lawsuits related to forest management.


Mr. BENISHEK. In addition, this legislation would allow States and Federal forests to react faster to catastrophic wildfire events, thereby reducing the future risk to public lands.

Finally, this legislation includes a number of collaborative processes for tribal, State, and private contracting, which will lead to healthier and better managed forests.

I understand that many of my friends here today may live in areas with a few forests or low risk of wildfire. I ask all my colleagues here today, especially those not in heavily forested areas, to listen to your friends from forested districts.

Support this bipartisan, commonsense legislation and help improve the health of our forests.