U.S. SENATE — U.S. Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) today introduced legislation to encourage cross boundary management of forests to protect water resources, enhance wildlife habitat, restore forest health, and strengthen local economies. The bipartisan Environmental and Economic Benefits Restoration Act of 2016 would encourage a landscape approach to forest management.
“I’ve been working closely with Montanans to make sure that we have locally-driven management of our forests,” Daines stated. “This bipartisan solution will help create healthy forests and more good-paying jobs.”
The Environmental and Economic Benefits Restoration Act of 2016, a part of Daines’ effort to improve forest management:
- Bolsters the use of Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) by empowering State Foresters to use fuels reduction funds for GNA projects.
- Authorizes a new USDA Forest Service program, which codifies an existing approach the agency is pursuing to support landscape restoration.
- Focuses resources on projects that deliver measurable impact on resource concerns, and sets requirements for impact measuring, ensuring the most effective use of federal and non-federal resources.
- Recognizes and supports state forest priorities identified in State Forest Action Plans.
- Provides a competitive progress for allocating a portion of the funds, encouraging funding for the most impactful projects, and allows a portion of the funds to be directed towards state identified priorities.
- Directs the USDA Forest Service and the Department of the Interior to spend a portion of the hazardous fuels reduction program resources on projects that include work across public and private lands.
The bill has been endorsed by the American Forest Foundation, the National Association of State Foresters and the National Wild Turkey Federation.
Greg Chilcott, Head of Montana Association of Counties Forest Counties Coalition, National Association of Counties Committee and Ravalli County Commissioner: “I support legislation that furthers active forest management, enhances forest health and reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfire. The State of Montana enjoys a reputation of successful land stewardship and their efforts would clearly benefit the forested lands in Montana utilizing the Good Neighbor Authority. I appreciate Senator Daines continuous leadership toward solutions.”
Gary Ellingson, Private Landowner and Montana Chair of Society of American Foresters: “As a family forest landowner in Montana, I know how important it is to reduce the wildfire risks on my property, to protect not only my land but the communities and water supplies that my land supports. Senator Daines has rightly recognized that to address the wildfire threat we face, in the patchwork landscape we live in with federal and non-federal lands, we have to work with our neighbors and work across ownership boundaries. I thank him for championing this bipartisan legislation.”
Ed Regan, Resource Manager, RY Timber: “As resource manager for RY Timber, I’ve witnessed the impacts of inadequate management practices on our forested landscapes. Watersheds and wildlife habitat suffer alongside the wood products industry and the risk of catastrophic wildfire only looms larger. I greatly appreciate Senator Daines’ leadership to build bipartisan consensus on this issue and his commitment to providing state agencies more tools to increase active management to benefit our forested lands and our communities.”
David Allen, President and CEO of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation: “The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) advocates for sound, science-based management of our forested landscapes and this proposal falls in line with the vital need to address active forest management and the appropriations to fund such work. We are intimately familiar with such work as RMEF recently committed $365,000 toward a multi-year, landscape-scale aspen and forest restoration project on Wyoming’s Shoshone National Forest for the sake of protecting/enhancing wildlife habitat, reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires, improving water sources and improving overall forest health. We commend and support Senators Amy Klobuchar and Steve Daines in this worthy effort to improve active forest management on a wider scale.”
Daines has long been working to move forward common sense forest management reforms to responsibly increase timber harvests, create good-paying jobs and improve forest health across Montana. Forests cover about one-fourth of Montana’s land area, some 22.5 million acres, or about one-fourth of the state’s total land area. According to the Montana Wood Products Association, Montana wood products provide over 7,500 direct jobs for Montana families. In August, Daines attended a briefing on the Thompson-Divide Complex fires and toured the Incident Command Post at West Glacier. In a recent editorial, Daines also outlined the necessity of implementing comprehensive forest management reforms and ensuring the Forest Service has the resources necessary to fight fires and implement preventative measures.