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Tribal forest bill subject of House hearing
Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) will hold a hearing today on H.R.3846, the Tribal Forest Protection Act of 2004.

Walden is the chairman of the House Resources subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health. He says H.R.3846 will reduce the threat of wildfire on tribal lands. The bill enables tribes to work with the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management on forest management.

"Every year thousands of acres of tribal forestlands in Oregon and across the United States have been destroyed as a result of fires jumping from Forest Service, BLM and other federal lands onto tribal lands," said Walden. "This legislation will give tribal land managers the tools they need to help reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire on reservations and tribal lands."

Last summer, nearly 20 Indian reservations were devastated by wildfire from adjacent federal lands. Over half occurred in Southern California where more than 30,000 acres and 130 homes were consumed, killing 10 people. Two of the reservations were burned entirely to the ground.

One of today's witnesses is Deron Marquez, Chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indian. A wildfire in southern California hit the the tribe hard, destroying 98 percent of the vegetation on the reservation.

The Tribal Forest Protection Act gives tribes the ability to actively participate in projects on adjacent Forest Service and BLM lands that treat excessive fuels and perform needed forest health projects. Tribes would be eligible for federal contracts to thin federal forest lands.

The bill follows the bipartisan work on the Healthy Forests Restoration Act signed into law last year. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) has worked closely with Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Resources Committee, on the legislation and introduced a companion bill in the Senate as S.2134.

Today's hearing is at 10 a.m. in 1334 Longworth House Office Building. An audio only feed is available at http://in001334.house.gov/1334.

Related Stories:
Bill introduced to allow tribes to thin federal forests (02/27)
Norton touts tribal participation in forest initiative (02/09)
Norton distributing wildlife grants to tribes (01/27)
Bark beetle poses problem for tribal forests (05/21)

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