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GOP Committee Leaders Call on Administration to Explain Old-Growth Decision

WASHINGTON—Republican leaders of the Congressional committees tasked with overseeing activities on federal forest lands are calling on the Biden administration to explain its rationale for creating a special definition for “old growth and mature forests” on federal lands.

U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, along with U.S. Representatives Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA), chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture and Bruce Westerman (R-AR), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, have asked U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to answer a series of questions regarding the process that led to this working definition, the statutory authority the administration followed to take this action and what impacts that will have on the government’s 128 forest land management plans.

In a letter to Secretary Vilsack, the members question USDA’s process, authority and rationale that seemingly attempts to codify parts of Executive Order 14072, conflicts with the Forest Service’s authorities and responsibilities, will further undermine forest health, and will increase wildfire risk to millions of acres of federal lands.

“[W]e question what existing statutory authority or Congressional mandate permits or directs the administration to ‘institutionalize climate-smart management and conservation strategies’ to address threats to undefined categories of federal lands. Further, we express significant concerns with the administration’s stated intent to amend all 128 Forest Plans in the space of approximately 13 months through an unprecedented and truncated process. If finalized as proposed, it will conflict with the multiple-use mandate…and the National Environmental Policy Act by placing management restrictions on thousands of acres, stands, or entire units based on a ‘narrative framework’ or a ‘working definition.’” the members wrote.

Read the full letter here.