Mr. DAINES. Mr. Chairman, as a fifth generation Montanan and an avid sportsman, I understand how protecting our beautiful landscapes and unmatched recreational opportunities are important to our way of life in Montana.
As much a part of Montana as our enjoyment of the great outdoors is our timber industry--or at least what used to be one. The timber industry has declined by 90 percent since I was a kid. Since then, the wildfires and beetle kill have worsened. Our loggers play an important role on the front lines of protecting our outdoor heritage, and we must never forget that.
I'm very concerned that many of these special places are being destroyed because the Forest Service does not have the tools necessary to manage these lands responsibly. H.R. 1526 gives the Forest Service the tools to protect and enhance our forests and will allow our timber industry to get back to work. It will cut the red tape that has held up responsible forest management and timber production. It includes comprehensive reforms to discourage and limit the flood of frivolous appeals and litigation.
It also requires the Forest Service to increase timber harvests on nonwilderness lands now that it will have much needed latitude to do its work.
This improved management will protect the health of our forests and watersheds, the safety of our communities, jobs in the timber industry, and our cherished access to the outdoors. H.R. 1526 would help create 68,000 jobs and nearly 5,000 jobs in Montana. H.R. 1526 would allow access to marketable timber for our mills in Montana and breathe life back into this dying industry.
This bill keeps the Federal Government's commitment to provide crucial revenue to our forest counties. It extends the Secure Rural Schools program for 1 year as the new timber program stands up. SRS has provided essential stopgap funding for timber counties since 2000, but many of our counties are tired of seeing the funds depend on the whims of Congress.
This bill has the support of the National Association of Forested Counties. This bill also has the support of the National Education Association because they recognize the economic development and revenue that will be generated by our bill will strengthen our rural schools in States like Montana. Importantly, this bill helps to protect healthy forest management from habitual lawsuits brought by fringe groups.
My amendment would strengthen the bill's protections against court-ordered obstruction. Unfortunately, obstructionist tactics too often stop them from going forward. In region one alone, at least 40 percent of timber sales in fiscal '12 and fiscal '13 have been appealed or litigated. A top U.S. Forest Service official recently acknowledged that the abundance of litigation has played a ``huge role'' in blocking responsible timber sales.
In March of this year, the Friends of the Wild Swan, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, and others halted a much needed timber sale called the Colt Summit Project near Seeley Lake in Montana due to a minor technical error by the Forest Service involving the impact on the habitat of a listed species, the Canadian lynx.
Like the Colt Summit Project, oftentimes timber sales are stopped in their tracks by court-issued injunctions that are based solely on alleged procedural violations such as mere paperwork errors. My amendment would prohibit these injunctions that are based on nonsubstantive allegations.
Injunctions on timber sales often turn into permanent delays, leaving dying timber to rot and lose value. My amendment would allow these critical projects to move forward while litigation on the merits of the case is pending. In doing so, it will help ensure that responsible timber sales come to fruition.
My amendment simply allows projects like the Colt Summit Project to move forward while the merits of the case continue to be examined. I urge my colleagues to join me in support of making our forests healthier.
Mr. DAINES. Mr. Chairman, I respect the comments made by the gentleman from Oregon; but when we look at the State of Montana and see a 90 percent reduction in forest timber harvest on national forestlands, and when we hear from the Forest Service officials the number 1 issue is litigation, it is time that we put in place measures and reforms this amendment addresses, that addresses that those kind of concerns of procedural nature will not stop an entire forest project.
This is a very real issue in my home State. I saw it literally firsthand when I was visiting the Pyramid sawmill in Seeley Lake, when we saw, because of, literally, a small, little procedural error on one of 14 counts, that stopped an entire timber harvest.
This is getting out in front and saying, let's not let the trial lawyers and the courts control the forests. Let's let the people have control of the forests and restore the jobs that are needed and the revenue back to our schools.
Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time
The Acting CHAIR. The time of the gentleman has expired.
Mr. DeFAZIO. I yield myself the balance of the time.
We did have a hearing on this and similar issues, and I did find common ground with folks on the other side of the aisle.
We had a vigorous debate over fuel reduction 13 years ago, which ultimately resulted in a law called HFRA, [Page: H5749]
and I participated in writing that law here on the House side, very much a bipartisan law with myself and Mr. Miller on the Democratic side and Scott McInnis, John Shadegg, and Greg Walden on the other. And we gave this tool to the Forest Service, and they pretty much haven't used it. They've used it in very minor ways.
And at the hearing, I asked the Deputy Chief, What about HFRA? Do we really need to change the laws further or prevent--do these radical things like preventing appeals and litigation?
And he said, Well, no. We're moving ahead with a major, major landscape-scale collaborative process in the Black Hills.
I said, Well, that's great, Mr. Deputy. I said, How about all the rest of the intermountain West? How about central Oregon and other places where we need these sort of landscape-scale projects that can't be nitpicked, you know, acre by acre, but they are developed collaboratively and we move forward? And as I mentioned earlier, we can do them under stewardship contracts, which will attract investors who will utilize the biomass and lower the cost to the Forest Service.
There is a way to better do this. We need to push the Forest Service on these issues. If there are minor changes that need to be made in HFRA, they should let us know.
I believe one is that it doesn't allow for them to go into areas of bug kill, and that is something that should be fixed and was fixed in a bipartisan bill in the Senate, which we recommended, in part, in a Democratic alternative here which was offered in committee but not allowed on the floor because of scoring issues.
So I believe there is a way to move forward here and solve some of these problems, but this is not the proper way.
With that, I yield back the balance of my time.
The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Montana (Mr. Daines).
The question was taken; and the Acting Chair announced that the ayes appeared to have it.