WASHINGTON – On April 8 and 9, Vice Chair of the Western Caucus Bruce Westerman (AR-04) led a group of Western Caucus Members on a field tour of Arkansas’ Fourth District. The Western Caucus is a group of Congress members from Western and rural states invested in policy that affects their constituencies.
Congressman Bruce Westerman and Chairman of the Western Caucus Dan Newhouse released the following statements:
“I was honored to have the opportunity to show so many members of Congress firsthand how Arkansans use our natural resources to their fullest potential,” said Vice Chair Westerman. “Through uniquely cooperative relationships with the National Forest Service and the National Park Service, Arkansas empowers a healthy economy and a healthy environment to the benefit of the community. In Arkansas, we prioritize the welfare of the land and the people above bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy. I am grateful to share Arkansas’ expertise with my colleagues to take back to their own districts.”
“Field tours like this are truly invaluable to our work in Congress,” said Chairman Newhouse. “As we saw firsthand, Arkansas’ world-class forestry practices are a model for the rest of the country – particularly those of us in the West who are plagued by decades of mismanagement. We also saw how recreation opportunities, from Lake Ouachita to Hot Springs National Park, benefit local economies. Arkansas’ 4th district truly is a unique and beautiful part of the world, and I am grateful Rep. Westerman invited us to experience his home state.”
The Western Caucus tour was attended by the following members: Representatives Bruce Westerman (AR-04), Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Jay Obernolte (CA-8), Doug LaMalfa (CA-1), Cliff Bentz (OR-2), Michael Burgess (TX-26), and Russ Fulcher (ID-1).
Members witnessed how Arkansan foresters work collaboratively with private landowners, industry, and the federal government to manage the nearly 19 million acres of forestland across the state. They toured a non-industrial private working forest, a U.S. Forest Service plot within the Ouachita National Forest, and Weyerhaeuser’s state-of-the-art sawmill in Dierks. Additionally, the group visited Blakely Mountain Dam on the Ouachita River, which provides immense benefits to the region, including flood control, recreation opportunities, water supply, and hydropower generation.
Lastly, the Members visited Avant Mining to learn about Arkansas’ world-class quartz crystal mining and toured Hot Springs National Park, one of the smallest and most unique parks in the National Park System, which generates robust economic activity and brought over 2 million visitors to Arkansas in 2021.
Private industrial and non-industrial forests comprise 80% of the nearly 19 million acres of forestland across Arkansas. With 2.9 million acres of national forest in the state, federal forest management decisions impact everything from public land access to the local economy. The U.S. Forest Service implements a wide variety of management practices in the Ouachita National Forest, including prescribed burns, mechanical thinning, and timber sales.
Lake Ouachita, created by Blakely Mountain Dam, produces an excess of $28.5 million in direct economic benefits to the area while directly supporting over 740 jobs in the region. Hydropower production, outdoor recreation opportunities, and extensive flood damage reduction enhance the direct regional benefits derived from this project.
Hot Springs National Park was the first piece of land designated as a federal reservation in 1832 by President Andrew Jackson. While it is the second smallest park by square miles, in 2021 Hot Springs National Park ranked 38th out of 423 for most visited National Park Service sites.