Q&A with Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson

Congressman Glenn Thompson represents the 5th District of Pennsylvania, located in Central Pennsylvania. As a descendant of a long line of dairy farmers, Representative Thompson is a proud and active member of the House Agriculture Committee, where he currently serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Conservation & Forestry. Representative Thompson also serves on the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Education & the Workforce Committee. He has taken a strong interest in the issues that are most important to private forest landowner.

Forest America asked Chairman Thompson about his views and priorities for forest landowners in the current Congress.

Q: What are the Subcommittee’s top priorities for this Congress for our nation’s private forests?

The number one priority for the Subcommittee in the 114th Congress is oversight of USDA, specifically the implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill.  We had a number of positive forestry provisions included in the new law – forest roads, categorical exclusion authorities for the Forest Service, and expanding the Bio-preferred Program to timber products, to name just a few – and we will be working with USDA to ensure that the intent of the law is followed.

At the Subcommittee, we will continue to encourage active management of our federal forests, along with increasing timber harvest levels in the national forest system to their recommended amounts.  For a number of reasons, the Forest Service is only harvesting a mere fraction of the timber that most every forest plan calls for. Getting closer to these increased levels of timber harvest will be beneficial for both the ecological health of our nation’s forests, as well as the economic health of many rural communities.

Q: What about any initiatives intended to help keep our private forest landowners competitive in domestic and global markets?

We have seen some good trade agreements in recent years for agricultural products, yet I think the most important thing we can do is to keep the federal government out of the way of private forestry so that foresters are able to manage their lands, harvest their timber and grow their businesses.

The private sector has a much better track record and is far more efficient in terms of forest management and timber harvesting than the federal government.  But in order to preserve that success, it is vital that the government doesn’t needlessly overregulate said activities.  Additionally, we must continue to provide voluntary management tools for foresters and landowners, as I am proud to say we have done in the past few farm bills.

Q: What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing forest landowners over the next several years?

The greatest challenges that forest landowners will face in the coming years is excessive, unwarranted federal regulations.  From EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule to the Forest Service’s Groundwater Directive to the array of proposed Endangered Species Act listings from the Fish & Wildlife Service, we have seen an unprecedented number of proposed rules from federal agencies that threaten the private sector’s ability to manage forests, provide timber, and allow for strong rural communities.

As we continue to observe, many of these rules go far beyond the intent of the underlying law, while having major implications and associated costs on land use.  Congress has had some success in rolling back or preventing these far-reaching rules, but much more work needs to be done.

Q: Do you think your colleagues understand the difference between the health and sustainability of private forest and public forests, and that our private forests are healthy?

I think that there is quite a bit of expertise on forestry issues among my colleagues.  However, like every issue, we continually need to be informed and educated by the real experts on the ground. Having said that, I encourage all foresters, loggers and timber harvesters to get involved and exercise your First Amendment right to petition Congress.

We need to hear from you.  We need to hear how Washington policies are affecting you and the nation’s forests.

Q: What will it take to educate and inform Members of Congress about the difference, and the value that private landowners are bringing to both our natural resources and to the economy?

It takes contact with your Representatives, both in the House and Senate.

Q: What should private landowners themselves be doing to better to inform policy-makers and the public about their challenges?

Call your Members of Congress and communicate.  Visit their local district offices.