Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jim Risch today called on the Forest Service to increase timber harvest to protect forests from catastrophic wildfire during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on wildland fire management. Risch, as a member of the committee, directed his remarks to Tom Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service and other agency representatives.
Risch pointed to the Idaho Department of Lands, which manages 2.4 million acres in the State Endowment Trust and generated $50 million in revenue by selling 330 million board feet of timber last year. He contrasted that with the Forest Service only selling 79 million board feet from four times the amount of land being managed in Idaho.
“Last year 1.6 million acres burned in Idaho, so a lot of that timber that you could have taken off is lying on the ground, is black and probably not salvageable. The solution here seems almost too clear, the Forest Service needs to step it up. If you step it up, you will get rid of the fuel and do a whole lot better,” said Risch.
Risch also referenced the Bureau of Land Management and the need to reduce fuel loads on rangeland in Idaho. “If you get the cows on it in the spring and get the fuel off in the spring, you are going to have less severe fires,” he said.
The Forest Service budget for fiscal year 2014 calls for a decrease in their overall timber harvest from 2.8 billion board feet to 2.38 billion board feet on all land managed by the agency.