Chair McCollum Statement at Hearing on FY 2021 Forest Service Budget Request
Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN), Chair of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the Fiscal Year 2021 budget request for the U.S. Forest Service:
Good morning, I’d like to welcome back to the Subcommittee the 19th Chief of the USDA Forest Service, Vicki Christiansen. We are very happy to have you here and look forward to hearing your thoughts on Forest Service operations and this budget request. Joining the Chief today is John Rapp, Director of Strategic Planning, Budget, and Accountability.
Our hearing today will address the President’s 2021 budget request for the USDA Forest Service. This is the administration’s fourth budget, and just like the previous requests, it would be a disaster for our nation’s forests if enacted. This budget proposes to reduce non-fire activities by $202 million. It eliminates key programs, undervalues the importance of state and private forestry work, and cuts the scientific research that keeps our forests healthy. And we know that healthy forests are vital to clean watersheds, breathable air, and mitigating climate change.
In fact, Forest Service lands provide nearly 20 percent of the Nation’s water supply – and 50 percent in the West. And 60 million people rely on these lands for all or part of their drinking water. We cannot afford to shortchange the work of the Forest Service.
Last year, Congress rejected the President’s proposal to reduce the Forest Service non-fire budget by $297 million and instead provided a $50 million increase for fiscal year 2020. I look forward to hearing today how you will use these funds to improve forest health and prevent wildfires.
The American people rely on the U.S. Forest Service to responsibly manage the National Forest System in a way that sustains the health, diversity, and productivity of our Nation’s forests and grasslands. This Subcommittee intends to provide the funding that supports you in that mission, Chief Christiansen, regardless of the President’s proposed cuts.
I would now like to yield to our Ranking Member, Mr. Joyce, for his opening remarks.