House breezing through forest management bill

"H.R. 1526… is a long-term solution to put Americans back to work, to restore our forest health and help prevent catastrophic wildfires by renewing our federal government's commitment to actively manage our national forests," said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.).

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"The bill requires responsible timber production on at least half of our federal forest service commercial timber lands," he added. "By helping to restore active forest management, this bill is estimated to create over 200,000 direct jobs, and would provide nearly $400 million in savings over 10 years."

After a contentious day of debating a partisan food stamp bill, Democrats signaled their support for the bipartisan process used to develop the bill. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said he still has concerns with the legislation, but said he's hopeful the bipartisan process continues in the Senate and in a conference committee.

"I want to reiterate… that Democrats stand ready to work with our college on the other side of the aisle on forest management. There is common ground, there is bipartisan agreement on some issues," DeFazio said. "Hopefully this bill is the beginning of that conversation, not the end, as we attempt to have a real legislative process with the Senate on these issues."

Members disposed of a few amendments on Thursday night, but votes on others will be needed on Friday before a final passage vote. Amendments disposed of Thursday night were from:

— Steven Daines (R-Mont.), requiring the Secretary of the Interior to submit an annual report to Congress on timber harvests on national forest land,

— Jason Smith (R-Mo.), establishing a moratorium on the use of prescribed fires in the Mark Twain National Forest until the Secretary of Agriculture reports to Congress on the impact of these fires, and

— Doug LaMalfa, streamlining the U.S. Forest Services' post-wildfire effort by including reforestation, site rehabilitation and salvage operations.

LaMalfa had another amendment limiting Department of Justice efforts to seek exorbitant damages beyond actual damage to property, public lands and firefighting and restoration costs in states with laws that limit those damages. However, he withdrew it Thursday night.