Congressional Hearing Coming To Nacogdoches

The issue of environmental protection is having a big impact on the forest industry. This Saturday in Nacogdoches East Texas foresters will rally prior to a House Committee field hearing on the 'National Environmental Policy Act.'

Property owners want to voice their concerns over what they call unreasonable regulations. Nolan Alders is concerned about protecting valuable timber, whether it grows in the national forest or on private property. "The impact to Nacogdoches County and East Texas is simply that everything that affects the national forests affect the private landowner."

Case in point, is how the National Environmental Policy Act, NEPA restricts control of the southern pine beetle in national forests. "It just came across the national forest boundary and just kept on into private land and devastated thousands of private acres of timberland. It could have been handled if NEPA had a little less structure of doing things," said Alders.

Foresters don't fault NEPA's intention of protecting public lands. What they do object to is all the red tape. The average environmental impact statement is 500 pages and costs up to two million dollars.

Dean of SFA's College of Forestry, Dr. Scott Beasley said, "The process has really gotten out of control and it's time consuming, ineffective and in some cases kind of counter productive."

Private landowners say fire and insect threats increase when U.S. forest lands aren't managed. In 1999 it took special executive permission to harvest government timber stands blown down by straight-line winds. "I think we harvested about 18 million dollars worth of timber that would have been still laying there," recalled Alders.

The foresters will recommend changes they call common sense approaches to protecting the environment. The pre rally will begin at 9:00 Saturday morning on the Stephen F. Austin University grounds. The NEPA Task Force will hear testimony at 10 a.m. in SFA's Cole Concert Hall. Congressman Louis Gohmert will attend.