This testimony was submitted to the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, subcommittee on federal lands hearing on H.R. 674, the Root and Stem Project Authorization Act.
- Conserving forest ecosystems and solving the wildfire crisis requires tackling the Forest Service’s 80-million-acre forest restoration backlog.
- The environmental review process is a major obstacle to increasing the pace and scale of forest restoration work.
- The Root and Stem Project Authorization Act (H.R. 674) would enhance forest restoration by allowing third parties to fund environmental reviews for restoration projects while still maintaining federal oversight and authority.
Large and destructive wildfires are becoming more common across the West. Although several factors contribute to this trend, the declining health of our nation’s forests is a primary cause. Our national forests face an 80-million-acre backlog in needed restoration—a backlog that leaves our forests with excess fuels, more vulnerable to insects and disease outbreaks, and less resilient to climate change and drought. Yet the Forest Service has struggled to treat more than a few million of those acres per year.
PERC supports the Biden administration’s ambitious strategy to significantly increase its forest restoration work over the next decade, including the goal of treating an additional 20 million acres of national forest above the business-as-usual rate. Meeting that critical target will require greater efficiency in the years-long process of developing, approving, and implementing forest restoration projects. The Root and Stem Project Authorization Act (H.R. 674) from Representative Dan Newhouse is a common-sense, bipartisan proposal that would help to get more collaborative forest restoration projects through the environmental review process by allowing third parties to contribute resources to complete environmental reviews while still maintaining federal oversight and authority. The Senate passed companion language from Senator Steve Daines and the late Senator Diane Feinstein in the 117th Congress and advanced the proposal again out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the 118th Congress without opposition. With such broad support, and at a time of great need, the Root and Stem Project Authorization Act will bring additional private resources to help fix America’s forests.