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Chairwoman Stabenow Opening Statement at Hearing on Opportunities for Foresters to Address Climate Change

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today released the following opening statement at the hearing titled “Federal, State, and Private Forestlands: Opportunities for Addressing Climate Change.” Live video of the hearing is available here.

Stabenow’s statement, as prepared for delivery, follows:

Thank you all for joining us this morning to talk about the incredible potential of America’s forests to help solve the climate crisis. Covering more than one-third of the land area of the United States, our public and private forests already play an important role storing carbon—and with the right policies, they have the potential to do so much more.

Mother Nature couldn’t have designed a more effective mechanism for sequestering carbon and cleaning our air. America’s forests currently pull as much carbon dioxide out of the air every year as eliminating 54 million cars from the road according to the National Academy of Science. Climate-smart forestry policies offer both tools to reduce carbon pollution and an important opportunity to develop new revenue streams for family foresters.

This helps provide financial stability in uncertain times, as pressure increases to subdivide forestland for new development. But our solutions can’t be one-size-fits-all. Small-acreage and minority landowners have too often been left out of the kind of opportunities we’re talking about today. Their stories are unique, and their needs may be very different than those of larger or more-resourced operations. We have a duty to bring all voices to the table, and we have witnesses with us today who can speak to how we can do more to address the needs of these foresters specifically.

We also have to invest in our national forests, both in replanting stands that have been affected by wildfire and insect outbreaks, and in pursuing science-based restoration of our public lands to help prevent wildfires in the first place. Senator Bennet, who chairs our Forestry subcommittee – and whose beautiful home state of Colorado last year saw some of its worst wildfires in recent history – is leading a bill on this, and I look forward to working with you, Senator Bennet. As we work to better manage our forests to help us reach our climate goals, we have to think about a variety of different principles to help guide the discussion.  

First, we need to ensure that climate smart forestry policies and practices complement and strengthen our traditional forest products markets. In fact, I think there’s great promise in storing carbon in long-lived wood products like mass timber. We worked in a bipartisan way in the last farm bill to enact my Timber Innovation Act, and my alma mater Michigan State is building the first mass timber building in the state of Michigan. And I understand from Senator Boozman that he has a large construction project in Arkansas as well.

We must look for additional opportunities to build markets for climate friendly forest products. Secondly, as we think about reaping additional climate benefits from managed timberland, we also need to redouble our efforts to protect the few remaining stands of old-growth forests.

These mature forests are tremendous carbon reserves and they ought to be preserved, both for the climate and for other benefits like providing wildlife habitat and clean water. A diverse coalition of forest landowners, industry, conservationists, and outdoor recreation enthusiasts agree that voluntary, flexible policies and investments to drive climate-smart forestry practices are a win-win.

My bipartisan Rural Forest Markets Act with Senator Braun, along with the REPLANT Act with Senator Portman and Senators Bennet and Marshall – the Chair and Ranking Member of our Forestry Subcommittee – are examples of bipartisan bills that positively address these issues. I know we’ll hear strong support for both pieces of legislation today as well as for other opportunities in this arena.

I look forward to hearing from all our witnesses today. With that, I recognize my friend Senator Boozman for any comments he’d like to make.