EDGEFIELD, S.C. — The National Wild Turkey Federation's (NWTF) Chief Conservation Officer Becky Humphries testified Wednesday at the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Federal Lands regarding legislation to address forest policy reform and encourage active forest management.
Humphries shared with committee members that through the NWTF Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative we are promoting active forest management for its benefits in creating quality wildlife habitat and preserving our hunting tradition.
"Active forest management benefits numerous wildlife species and their habitats as well as overall forest health. It's matched with economic benefits to local economies and public recreational opportunities," said Humphries. "Additionally, increased active forest management on federal lands will help prevent wildfires and make it easier and less costly to fight them when they do occur."
"Our nation's federal lands play a vital role in maintaining healthy forests that are resilient to threats at a landscape level," said Humphries. "The NWTF believes the draft legislation this committee is considering will help ensure that timber harvest and the creation of young forest habitat for wildlife remains viable on both federal and non-federal lands."
The NWTF supports the bill's expansion of categorical exclusions, which would allow for routine forest management activities with known impacts to proceed without extensive environmental assessment. "We believe it will streamline the process and speed up the pace of work when dealing with issues like pests and disease, hazardous fuels, critical habitat for threatened or endangered species, water quality, and meeting forest plan goals for young forest habitat."
The NWTF generally supports changing the way timber revenues are handled through stewardship contracting projects so payments are provided to counties to help garner and/or maintain support for the program. However, the NWTF believes the same payment should not be applied to stewardship agreements, because they require partner matches. "The NWTF has partnered on 81 stewardship agreements," Humphries said, "and we have seen many cases where our match was used to expand the scale of the project beyond what would have been possible with only a regular timber sale or stewardship contract."
Humphries spoke in support of the efforts to limit litigation on projects by requiring those challenging the U.S. Forest Service, in court, to post bond to cover the government's legal expenses. The NWTF believes this will dissuade groups from litigating only for the sake of delaying action.
For these reasons, the NWTF supports the passage of a bipartisan forestry reform bill. It currently lives in draft form, titled Returning Resilience to Our Over-grown, Fire-prone National Forests Act of 2015.
About The NWTF Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. Initiative
The NWTF Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative is a charge that mobilizes science, fundraising and devoted volunteers to give the NWTF more energy and purpose than ever. Through this national initiative, NWTF has committed to raising $1.2 billion to conserve or enhance more than 4 million acres of essential upland wildlife habitat, create at least 1.5 million hunters and open access to 500,000 acres for hunting, shooting and outdoor enjoyment. Without hunters, there will be no wildlife or habitat. The NWTF is determined to Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt.
To learn more about the NWTF Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative, visit www.nwtf.org.
For additional story information, contact Melanie Swearingen at (803) 637-7634