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House Republicans proposed legislation Thursday that would ban imports of wood products from Russia and Belarus during the war with Ukraine, and ramp up domestic timber harvesting on public lands and national forests.
The No Timber From Tyrants Act, sponsored by Natural Resources ranking member Bruce Westerman (Ark.), would direct the Agriculture and Interior secretaries to harvest more timber from already authorized plans in order to substitute for the loss of the imported wood products.
The U.S. in 2021 imported $500 million in wood products from Russia and Belarus, the Congressional Research Service reported. Russia overall exported about $12 billion worth of timber products last year, according to data from Wood Resource Quarterly.
Westerman and other Republicans view the measure as part of a larger legislative effort to bolster U.S. natural resource extraction and production to reduce reliance on foreign energy and critical minerals. He and Energy and Commerce ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) in March introduced legislation (H.R. 6858) that would increase U.S. liquified natural gas exports, restart the canceled Keystone XL Pipeline, and ramp up oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters.
“I would promote keeping these policies in place in the long term if we can get them implemented,” Westerman said in an interview Thursday. “I don’t see this as a partisan bill,” he added, when asked if he anticipated any Democratic support. “I see this as an American bill.”
Westerman said his bill wouldn’t allocate “a single acre more for timber harvest” on federal lands, but rather would step up production, according to plans the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management already have in place for tree management.
“The Forest Service never seems to get to the allowable cut number, so this is in the established amount they are supposed to be harvesting,” the Republican said of his legislation. “It’s not going over.”
Many Republicans, and some Democrats, have argued that more active federal forest management, including cutting down trees, would help mitigate and prevent catastrophic wildfires.
The Natural Resources Defense Council pushed back on Westerman’s bill, which dozens of House Republicans support.
“Forests are a critical tool in the climate fight, and this bill is cynically trying to capitalize on a global tragedy to exploit places Americans hold dear,” said Garett Rose, staff attorney for the nature program at NRDC. “Those forests give us much more valuable things: clean drinking water, carbon storage, fish and wildlife habitat, increasingly scarce recreational opportunities, and countless other benefits.”
Westerman said he views the No Timber From Tyrants Act as a way to create more U.S. jobs and reduce reliance on foreign sources for natural resources.
“I’m looking at this as anything we can do to put pressure on Putin and cut off funding to his war machine,” he said of the Russian president. “All the stuff he is selling we can make here. We don’t need his stuff.”
Groups including the National Association of Home Builders, American Forest & Paper Association, and the Federal Forest Resource Coalition, a timber industry trade group, support Westerman’s legislation.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kellie Lunney in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org