07/21/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/21/2021 08:28
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
Good morning, everyone. Chair Spanberger, thank you for convening today's hearing.
From furniture to baseball bats, and paper to lumber, our forests provide countless products and essential feedstocks for many American industries.
Collectively, forest-related businesses support over one million direct jobs and 2.9 million indirect jobs nationwide, generating approximately $107 billion in GDP. These industries are economic engines that provide rural jobs and revenues to forest counties, while also promoting important forest health.
Active forest management encourages healthy forests and will decrease the threat and severity of wildfire by restoring forest stands to their natural conditions.
In 1987, our federal forests saw more than 11 billion board feet harvested. Last year only 3.2 BBF was harvested-this has led to more overstocking in our forests.
The COVID pandemic created immeasurable challenges for families and individuals, small businesses and the economy nationwide. In countless ways and to varying degrees, these difficulties were felt in forest communities and throughout the various industries within the forest products supply chain.
Over the past year, there has been considerable attention on the lumber and housing industries, as lumber prices skyrocketed due to a dramatic and unexpected spike in demand.
At its peak, lumber prices exceeded $1600 per thousand board feet - an increase of three to four times historical prices.
While today's lumber prices are still elevated, it is important to note that they have been moderating in recent months, as supply and demand have slowly begun to realign.
However, as this normalization continues to occur, COVID-19 has highlighted some of the issues that exist in the forest products and lumber supply chains, such as a lack of sawmill capacity, and ongoing workforce and transportation needs.
As we have today's discussion on these issues impacting forest products, we must also address the elephant in the room-the massive wildfires that are burning across California and the West. I believe we must also be talking about timber harvesting and the need for more active management on our national forests.
The wildfire crisis continues to wreak havoc on the West. We should focus on practical solutions that will address wildfire prevention, the declining health of our national forests, and the urgent needs of millions of Americans who live in these areas.
The West is still reeling from the 2020 fire year, which burned over 10 million acres of forest; and it appears that 2021 will be an even more difficult year, as we have already surpassed the number of fires and acres burned compared to this point last year. Already over 1 million acres have burned.
We hope to have the Chief of the Forest Service and the Chief of NRCS testify before this Subcommittee this year. We also need hearings on the thoughtful forestry bills that our Members have put forward this congress, which are designed to empower the Forest Service to better manage our forests and reduce wildfire.
At its inception, the fundamental goal of our national forest system was active management of our national forests to provide the nation with a reliable source of timber and forest products-the Forest Service must return to this model. Our job in Congress is to provide them the authorities and resources to proactively address this crisis while also being able to fulfill all other statutory mandates we've placed upon the agency.
The forest products industry is an important partner with both the Forest Service and rural communities. With the right tools and policies in place, we can encourage more effective forest management, healthy rural economies, and a vibrant forest products industry.
I want to thank our witnesses for all being here today. We look forward to your testimonies, expertise, and recommendations on these important issues.