WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, released the following opening remarks, as prepared, from the hearing entitled Federal, State, and Private Forestlands: Opportunities for Addressing Climate Change:
Thank you Chairwoman Stabenow for your interest and commitment in continuing this important conversation focusing on the forestry sector.
I appreciate the collaboration for today’s hearing, and I thank our witnesses for their time today.
I look forward to today’s conversation because the forestry sector and the wood products industries have a great story to tell when it comes to the numerous benefits healthy, working forests provide — including carbon sequestration.
The good news is, we have an abundance of the world’s greatest carbon sequestration machines – trees.
Using U.S. Forest Service data, the Environmental Protection Agency, declared U.S. forest carbon stocks contained 58.7 billion metric tons of carbon in 2019. U.S. forests were also a net carbon sink of 221 million metric tons of carbon in 2019 – offsetting approximately 12% of gross annual greenhouse gas emissions in the United States for the year.
While this is encouraging, we cannot simply plant more trees and expect an end to the conversation. Planting trees without appropriate and active management is the equivalent to planting mountains of kindling across our public and private forest lands.
The good news is that America’s foresters, public and private land management experts and the wood products industry know how to maintain, cultivate and sustain healthy forests–today and for generations to come.
This lifecycle of planting trees, managing forests, harvesting timber and delivering this commodity to a vibrant wood products industry is a “win-win” for everyone.
Our forests “win” from active management and treatments that help mitigate against pests and diseases and minimize the severity and intensity of catastrophic wildfires.
Healthy, well-managed forests provide cleaner air and water, and vibrant ecosystems for wildlife and recreation activities. This is a “win” for all of us.
When we manage our forests properly, we can harvest desirable timber, continue reforestation activities and support the growing wood products industry which sequesters carbon in products beyond the life of the individual tree.
This is a “win” for public and private forestlands, our wood products industry and for the economic sustainability of rural communities relying on this industry for their livelihood.
The common denominator in achieving these “wins” is “management.” Providing forestry experts the right tools yields us healthy forests, healthy markets and countless benefits.
According to the American Forest & Paper Association, the forest products industry employs over 900,000 people and supports 2.5 million jobs through its supply chain. The industry represents around 4% of the U.S. manufacturing Gross Domestic Product and manufactures almost $300 billion in products annually. This industry and these jobs are essential to rural economies.
In Arkansas, we are seeing some of the exciting innovations of mass timber. For instance, the University of Arkansas’s Adohi Hall is a 202,000 square foot student residence constructed almost entirely of mass timber. It is one of the largest mass timber buildings in the U.S., estimating to store the equivalent of over 3,000 metric tons of carbon.
Also, Walmart is constructing its new corporate headquarters in Bentonville, with 1.7 million cubic feet of mass timber harvested and manufactured in Arkansas. As a result of that project, Structurlam will be opening a new facility in Conway, Arkansas that will create over 100 new jobs in the state.
These projects are a microcosm of the “win-win” opportunities tied to healthy, well-managed working forests – and there are many success stories to be told.
As Congress and the administration consider strategies to promote voluntary participation in combatting climate change, we must avoid policies that take forest land out of production or deter sound forest management practices.
We must ensure foresters and landowners are able to operate with certainty, predictability and transparency. And, we must avoid taking actions that may disrupt this successful and sustainable market cycle.
This is true with the administration’s tax proposal on capital gains and stepped-up basis, which may have significant implications for the agriculture and forestry industries by frustrating, rather than facilitating, market opportunities for land owners, timber harvests and the wood product industries.
Which is why I encourage our stakeholders to examine these tax proposals and consider how they impact operations today, and for future generations.
We need to keep our working forests – working, and not pursue policies or incentivize practices that may impede the great story of our forests and wood products industries.
With that, I am eager to hear the unique interests from our witnesses today, to better understand the “wins” healthy working forests provide by sequestering carbon, supporting our rural communities and our growing wood products industry.
Thank you Chairwoman Stabenow.