Sen. Murkowski: Priorities in Forest Service Budget are Troubling
Lacks Provisions to Enable Southeast Alaska Communities to Prosper
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today questioned Chief Tom Tidwell of the U.S. Forest Service (Service) on the priorities in the agency’s $4.9 billion FY 2017 budget request. At Tuesday’s hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Murkowski emphasized that the Service continues to stand in the way of a sustainable timber industry in Southeast Alaska. Murkowski also committed to working on a long-term solution for active forest management that would end the practice of fire-borrowing.
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“I am troubled by the many aspects of the Forest Service’s budget that propose a number of mandatory spending proposals without providing any offsets. The Secure Rural Schools program is the perfect example. We’ve reached a point where if we’re not cutting trees on federal lands – and we hardly are – then counties, parishes, and boroughs are going to be cutting their budgets. That’s unacceptable,” Murkowski said. “In addition to putting in place measures to promote active forest management, I look forward to working with my colleagues on a long-term solution that ends the practice of fire-borrowing. We need to do both, at once, because we know the wildfire problem is not just a budgeting problem – it’s also a management problem.”
Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, also criticized the management plan that the Service has put in place for the Tongass National Forest.
“The Forest Service is following a secretarial mandate to expedite a transition away from old-growth timber harvesting towards a timber program focused on predominantly young-growth. It will fundamentally change the way the Tongass is managed. And yet, there is no mention of the transition in this budget to explain how it will be executed and how it will be funded,” Murkowski said. “The Forest Service needs do what’s right and fully examine the data and science behind the transition while in the meantime providing enough timber to meet market demand, because if it fails to do that, there won’t be any timber left to transition.”
When asked about the delay in the issuance of SRS payments, Tidwell responded that communities across the nation will be receiving their full SRS payments next week.