Washington, DC - Citing a massive beetle infestation in the Western U.S. and its accompanying hazards, Senator Jim Risch today spoke to members of the Intermountain Forest Association about a bill he is co-sponsoring with Senator Mark Udall, D-Colo., to address the challenges the epidemic presents to forest managers.
"This legislation essentially provides a full tool belt to the U.S. Forest Service and Interior Department to address the western pine beetle problem," said Risch. "It is bipartisan. The beetle is neither democrat nor republican and as such, legislators from all across the Western states are supportive of this measure."
Among the assistance S. 2798 would provide is the ability to designate insect and disease emergency areas on nearly 1.4 million beetle-infested acres in Idaho. Those emergency areas would then be eligible for hazardous fuels removal and forest restoration under the Healthy Forests Restoration Act.
The bill would also expand to all Western states a program in which state foresters are contracted to treat National Forest lands. Most importantly, the bill would not diminish or affect the rights of private property owners, Risch pointed out.
"We are pleased that Senator Risch is actively working with the forest products industry and others to craft a common-sense solution to the insect infestations that are plaguing our forests in the Intermountain West," said Jim Riley, Intermountain Forest Association President. "This issue is hugely important to us, and we thank him for his focus. Proper forest management is the best way to protect many of Idaho's forest lands and rural communities from the catastrophic wildfires which can often result from insect infestations, and this bill does an excellent job of addressing this issue."
The National Forest Insect and Disease Emergency of Act 2009 is now being considered by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, of which Risch is a member.