Mr. SMITH of Missouri. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Let me begin first by saying I fully support increasing the timber harvest on Federal lands, and I'm excited for the opportunity to create jobs and stimulate the economy in my rural Missouri district.
The issue that my amendment deals with, prescribed fires within the Mark Twain National Forest, is a symptom of the larger problem that H.R. 1526 seeks to fix. To put it simply, our national forest system could be better managed. Fifty million board feet of timber, with an estimated value of $4.75 million, dies every year in the Mark Twain National Forest. Only 38 million board feet of timber, with an estimated value of $4.37 million, is harvested. There are individuals ready, willing, and able
to harvest the timber, but they are prevented from acting by the Federal Government.
The Forest Service has made the harvest problem even worse by burning whole swaths of harvestable acreage. While prescribed fire has been used in the past as an effective technique to manage and prevent forest fires, in this instance the fires are being used to change the landscape of the area from its current forested state to pine-oak woodlands.
I have personally visited sites where trees that could be harvested for timber are being burned. Folks, it just doesn't make sense to be burning this timber that could be used to bring new jobs and economic prosperity to my district.
The forest products industry in my district is alive and well, and we certainly could make use of these trees that are instead being burned. The wood flooring, the barrel industry, and timber and charcoal industries are major employers in my district that will put people back to work turning these trees into valuable finished products.
My constituents who have evaluated the impacts of the initial prescribed fires are very concerned about the results. The large size of the burns and the failure to utilize cut hardwoods has created a residual forest condition with scorched trees and bare mineral soil.
A number of trees the burns intended to promote were exposed to excessive heat, which has caused these trees to die unnecessarily. The burns have also caused the forest floor to become more susceptible to erosion. As a result of this situation, we need to place a moratorium on these prescribed fires in the Mark Twain National Forest until such time as their effects on the forest can be determined. I wrote a letter to the Forest Service in August, along with five of my colleagues from Missouri,
seeking this information and have yet to receive a response.
I ask this body to approve my amendment so that we can get more information from the Forest Service about this situation and that in the meantime more of our valuable Missouri hardwoods will not be indiscriminately burned.
Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I thank him for offering this amendment. I think his amendment takes care of a unique problem, although it may be applicable in other parts. But I think the gentleman has the right approach, and I support his amendment.