Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016

Floor Speech

Date: June 25, 2015
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of my amendment to H.R. 2822, the fiscal year 2016 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.

Mr. Chairman, my district covers nearly half the State of Michigan and includes three Federal forests. These forests are a major vacation destination for people, not only in my district, but in districts of Members all across the country.

Yet, sadly, many of our constituents arrive to the Federal forests of northern Michigan to find that the road to their favorite fishing spot or hiking trail or ORV path has been arbitrarily closed by the Forest Service, with no warning and no input from the local community.

Mr. Chairman, the last thing that people want to do when they travel to the woods of northern Michigan with their families is to learn about the obscure policies of the U.S. Forest Service, a Federal agency that treats the forests like their personal property instead of a public resource for everyone to enjoy.

Activities like hunting, snowmobiling, fishing, and hiking all depend on access to these forests. And it is important to note that the outdoor economy contributes over $5.5 billion and 194,000 jobs to Michigan, most of which are in my district.

My amendment is an opportunity to demonstrate to the Forest Service that their focus should be on making our forests more open and accessible to the American people. In practice, the amendment would reduce spending from the National Forest System vegetation and watershed program by $2 million and transfer those funds into the capital improvement and maintenance fund.

Now, you might ask yourself, What does that have to do with opening forest roads?

Well, I will tell you.

According to the Forest Service, when work is necessary to open a road for access, they use the capital improvement and maintenance fund. If the Forest Service is working to close a road to appease environmentalists who don't want anyone to visit the forest, they use the vegetation and watershed line item.

My amendment is simple. It gives more dollars to the Forest Service to keep roads open rather than closed. In addition, the CBO says that this change would save taxpayers $1 million for fiscal year 2016.

Mr. Chairman, today I am standing up on behalf of my constituents in my district who want to use their forests responsibly, who want to teach their kids and grandkids how to hunt, fish, and snowmobile. They want to enjoy nature. Furthermore, I am standing up today for the small businesses that employ families throughout the outdoor economy.

For example, I recently visited Extreme Power Sports in Gaylord, where they sell a variety of all-terrain vehicles, sleds, and safety gear. This small business sells ATVs and sleds to users all over the country who come to enjoy the trails and forests in our State and beyond.

In addition to businesses like Extreme Power Sports, the hotels and restaurants around northern Michigan are supported by those who come to visit our forests year-round.

Healthy, accessible forests are important for our way of life in northern Michigan and across the United States. All of our constituents deserve improved access to the forests, and I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.