Washington, D.C.– Today, U.S. Congressmen Andy Barr (R-KY), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) and Ami Bera (D-CA) announced the creation of the bipartisan White Oak Caucus. The White Oak Caucus is being established to promote and educate members about the support white oak forests provide in the United States. Barr, Bera, DesJarlais and Cohen will serve as the co-Chairs of the Caucus.
Across the U.S., there are over 104 million acres of land occupied by white oak trees. These trees provide biodiversity to many ecosystems and help the surrounding plant and animal-life prosper. However, the population of the white oak trees is set to rapidly decline in the next 10 to 15 years because of changes in land management and other ecological factors.
“White oak trees are critical for industries such as furniture, cabinetry, flooring as well as wine and Kentucky’s signature bourbon industry,” said Congressman Barr. “The absence of a sustainable white oak tree population puts these industries, their employees and the billions of dollars they create in economic activity in jeopardy. Additionally, white oak trees play a key role in ecosystems by supporting wildlife through forage and shelter. For these reasons, I am committed to leading the White Oak Caucus and raising awareness about the importance of white oak trees.”
“Maintaining healthy white oak forests is important for the environment and a wide range of industries,” said Congressman Cohen. “White oaks take sixty to one hundred years to reach maturity. We must take the opportunity now to ensure white oak is available for future generations.”
“Tennessee’s Fourth Congressional District is home to many distilleries with world-wide recognition,” said Congressman DesJarlais. “The white oak barrel is critical in the distilling process. We must ensure these trees are in abundance so that these businesses can continue to produce. I am proud to be joining with my colleagues in an effort to find practical solutions to this impending shortage.”
“I’m proud to join my colleagues in helping launch the White Oak Caucus in Congress,” said Representative Ami Bera, M.D. “White oak forests are critical to our wine industry in California and our nation’s spirits industry, as well as to our natural plant and animal biodiversity. This Caucus will help grow support and awareness for the importance of maintaining our white oak tree population.”
“We can’t overstate how important trees are to our ecosystem,” said Congressman Bruce Westerman (R-AR), a founding member of the White Oak Caucus. “From clean air and water, to rich wildlife habitats, to recreational opportunities, to paper products, forests provide an endless bounty of resources. That’s why it’s imperative that we conserve our rich diversity of trees, but unfortunately, without intervention, white oaks risk facing a precipitous decline in the next decade. This would have significant implications for the economy and industries like Kentucky bourbon, so I’m honored to join this caucus and put forward practical solutions for management, regrowth and utilization to keep the white oak thriving for years to come.”
“I am pleased to be a founding member of the White Oak Caucus,” said Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA), a founding member of the White Oak Caucus. “White oak forests can provide environmental and recreational advantages to communities. Further, a sustainable white oak forest enhances economic benefits to our communities and industries, particularly to the furniture and barrel industries. This caucus will work to assist in the preservation of the white oaks in Virginia and all across the Eastern United States.”
“As a timber farmer, I know white oak trees well and understand their importance to both the ecosystem and the critical industries dependent on their wood,” said Congressman James Comer (R-KY), a founding member of the White Oak Caucus. “I’m glad to join the White Oak Caucus formed by Congressman Barr and look forward to raising awareness for a tree species of critical importance to forests in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”
“Kentucky’s not only the geographical center of white oak country here in the United States, oak trees make up a significant part our state’s forests and their sustainable preservation is key to protecting both our environment and our economy,” said Congressman John Yarmuth (D-KY), a founding member of the White Oak Caucus. “White oak barrels are particularly important to our bourbon industry as they are used to age and perfect America’s only official native spirit. I thank Congressman Barr for his leadership in creating this caucus, which goes hand-and-hand with our work as Co-Chairs of the Congressional Bourbon Caucus.”
“I applaud my friend and colleague Representative Andy Barr for putting together the White Oak Caucus to better protect and manage this very important resource in Kentucky. White Oak grows in the Commonwealth and has a wide range of uses from flooring and furniture to the barrels used to produce Kentucky Bourbon. It is not only an economic driver, but also plays an important role in preserving the Commonwealth’s biodiversity. I look forward to working with Representative Andy Barr on this caucus,” said Congressman Brett Guthrie (R-KY), a founding member of the White Oak Caucus.
"Since before the landing at Jamestown, the founding of our nation, and the establishment of our state, white oak trees have been a key part of the land and ecosystem that would later become New Jersey. Unfortunately, the white oak population is on the decline, impacting our ecosystems and the industries that branch out from these forests. We need to take concrete steps to protect all of our open spaces and our air and water — today and for generations to come," said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) a founding member of the White Oak Caucus. "By establishing this new bipartisan White Oak Caucus, we are joining forces to raise awareness and support white oaks in New Jersey and nationwide. After all, protecting our environment should be something that everyone, Democrats and Republicans, should come together around."
“Brown-Forman is thrilled to see the launch of the bipartisan Congressional White Oak Caucus. We look forward to working with the caucus and other stakeholders to promote solutions addressing the long-term sustainability challenges facing America's white oak forests,” said Alex Alvarez, Chief Sustainability Officer and Director of Environmental, Social and Governance at Brown-Forman Corporation. “We appreciate the leadership of Representatives Andy Barr, Ami Bera, Steve Cohen, and Scott DesJarlais in helping to launch this caucus. The barrels we use for aging our American whiskies are made in the United States from American white oak, which we char before aging to give our whiskies their unique characteristics. Brown-Forman wants to help ensure that we can continue to sustainably produce and responsibly share our spirits with consumers around the world.”
“Sazerac appreciates and values the formation and future contributions of the Congressional White Oak Caucus. We are pleased that the looming shortage of white oak is attracting attention in the halls of Congress,” said Elizabeth Wise, SVP Government Affairs for Sazerac. “Between the White Oak Caucus, the White Oak Initiative and other related programs and projects a tangible difference can start to be made in white oak’s future.”
Additional members of the Caucus include Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-MI), Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson (PA-15), Congressman Jared Huffman (CA-02), and Congressman John Curtis (UT-03).