Fourth District Congressman Bruce Westerman (R-Arkansas) is leading a delegation of the Congressional Western Caucus around South Arkansas this week.
During a phone-in news conference Thursday, Westerman, who is one of 14 vice chairs of the group, said they would be making visits to sites in the area that highlighted its use of natural resources.
Among the sites will be the Weyerhaeuser sawmill in Dierks, which Westerman noted is “one of the largest and best sawmills in the world.”
Afterward, the contingent will see US Forest Service land in the Ouachita National Forest where, Westerman said, “we’ll see some active management in habitat restoration where they’ve actually used timber-thinning techniques and controlled burns to improve the resilience and the health and also to create some amazing wildlife habitat.”
Next, Westerman said the group will tour Lake Ouachita alongside representatives of the corps of engineers to talk about management and recreational activities. Blakely Mountain Dam comes next on the itinerary as the group will be shown its hydroelectric facility.
The Congressional Western Caucus delegation will also see a quartz crystal mining operation. Westerman said the quartz crystal mines near Hot Springs had benefited from the US Department of Defense’s efforts during WWII to find deposits that could supply the crystals necessary for radios during that era.
After a banquet, the delegation will visit Hot Springs National Park, which Westerman reported was the 38th most visited national park out of 400 while being one of the smallest such parks. He said he looked forward to showing off this location in his hometown to his fellow Congress members at least in part because of the use made of it. “We’ve been able to do some really innovative things with the main attraction, called bathhouse row, where the [US] Parks Service has entered into long-term lease agreements,” he said.
Westerman pointed, for an example of a business using a Parks Service lease, to one business that brews beer from the water of one of the areas hot springs, and to another that is a “boutique hotel.”
Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Washington), the Chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, said the trip was about examining “challenges” to the forestry industry and would provide members of Congress with the chance at “meeting people on the first lines of making the economy strong while being responsible stewards of the environment.” He said such visits were meant, where it concerns those working with natural resources, to “amplify their voice.”
The Congressional Western Caucus consists of 60 Republican members of the House of Representatives mostly from states west of the Mississippi River, including Westerman and Rep. Rick Crawford of Arkansas First Congressional District.
During the same call, Westerman announced the filing of the No Timber for Tyrants bill, which would ban the import of forestry products from Russia and Belorussia and make up the resulting difference in supply with harvests from US Forest Service lands. “They can easily do that and stay within the limited cut allocation that they’ve got budgeted for this year and years in the future.” So far, he said, the bill has garnered 82 cosponsors.