Congressman Doc Hastings (R-4th, WA) is chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee. He writes a weekly column. This week it is about what is happening to the management of our federal forests and how it is impacting our state, especially rural communities.
In specific he is concerned about additional set asides of forest lands for the Northern Spotted Owl which is being invaded by larger Barred Owls.
Here are the key points Congressman Hastings made in his column:
For over a decade, scientists have concluded that the biggest threat to the Northern Spotted Owl is not a lack of old growth timber, but rather another, larger predatory species—the Barred Owl.
Instead of attempting to improve forest management, the federal government recently proposed a sweeping expansion of 13 million acres of new critical habitat designations where any type of logging would be forbidden. This includes 2 million acres of privately owned land, impacting 1,615 landowners with 10 or more acres in the State of Washington alone.
Washington’s 9 million acres of forests have long provided multi-use benefits for Northwest communities. These forests must be protected and managed responsibly to preserve this important resource for centuries to come.
Twenty years after the Northern Spotted Owl was added to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) list, and years of failed management under the Northwest Forest Plan, these forests and the benefits they provide are in jeopardy.
Timber harvests have been cut by 84 percent, shutting down mills that served as the top employers and revenues for countless rural communities and costing tens of thousands of jobs. Timber-dependent counties continue to face high unemployment, and local governments and schools struggle to provide even basic services, including protecting public safety. The loss in economic activity caused by the original spotted owl plan caused an astounding decrease in federal tax receipts of nearly $700 million per year – all from rural Northwest communities.
The lack of federal management and endless lawsuits have had a devastating impact on the health of our forests, even on the owl habitat they were intended to protect. The Northwest has seen an average of 355,000 acres per year of our federal forests burn in wildfires since 1994.
Hastings concludes: The ESA must focus on species recovery, include peer-reviewed science instead of litigation, and focus scarce taxpayer dollars on the largest threats to species. In the case of the Spotted Owl, another massive land grab will not help recover the species. Our economy, and the health of our forests and wildlife, deserve better.