Arizona’s District 1 Congressman Paul Gosar plans a town hall meeting in Payson on Thursday Aug. 11, the day after a “Forum for our Forest” in Eagar.
The Tea Party hosted forum in Payson will take place at Tiny’s Restaurant at 6 p.m. Topics will include forest health and budget issues. Gosar supported Republican proposals to sharply limit federal spending and adopt a Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment. He also supported the recent bi-partisan deal to raise the debt ceiling.
Gosar’s criticism of environmental groups that have sued to block logging projects and his call for changes that would dramatically curtail future lawsuits has already drawn return fire from some of those groups.
The freshman Republican faces a re-election challenge from Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick, who he unseated.
On the topic of forest health, Gosar said “I am confident that together, with the help of our constituents and all vested parties, we can implement common-sense solutions that will make our forests healthier and our communities safer while jump-starting our local economy,” said Gosar.
He has co-sponsored legislation that would waive many environmental regulations that could block or slow logging projects that would salvage timber burned by the 733-square-mile Wallow Fire that nearly consumed Alpine and Springerville this summer.
Gosar has also co-sponsored legislation that would prevent the courts from awarding attorneys fees to groups that successfully sue to block Forest Service projects that violate the law.
However, environmental groups that have played a key role in designing projects that use a reinvented timber industry to thin forests to reduce fire danger and restore the ecology to normal conditions have fired back.
“One lesson of the Wallow Fire is that collaborative forest restoration works in Arizona’s ponderosa forest, and there needs to be more of it,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Meanwhile, (State Sen. Russell) Pearce and Gosar are fixated on using fires to advance their anti-environmental policy agenda. They’re wrong, and they’re on the wrong track.”
Gosar has strongly supported the White Mountain Stewardship Project contracts, widely credited with saving Alpine from the Wallow Fire when the raging crown fire hit a half-mile-wide buffer zone of thinned trees and dropped to the ground.
Gosar has also supported the Four Forests Restoration Initiative (4-FRI), which would offer timber companies long-term contracts to thin several million acres and so protect forested communities. Backers hope those contracts will offer timber companies so much wood they won’t need the $800-per-acre subsidy that limited the White Mountain Stewardship Project.
Gosar concluded, “we must re-evaluate our forest management policies at all levels of government because the status quo is detrimental to our region’s ecological health, our safety and our local and national economy.”
McKinney noted that Gosar has unfairly blamed lawsuits filed by conservationist groups for the demise of the timber industry in the region.
“The Center has not filed any lawsuits against green timber sale decisions on the Apache-Sitgreaves since 2000,” said McKinney. “Lawsuits prior to that targeted old-growth logging, which contributed to today’s uncharacteristic fires by removing fire-resistant large trees while leaving flammable thickets of small trees.