BOZEMAN, Mont. —U.S. Senator Steve Daines today celebrated National Forest Products Week by highlighting the important impact forestry has on Montana’s economy. Montana’s National Forests are a treasured part of the state’s heritage for generations and provide timber-surrounded counties with good-paying jobs and a vital revenue source to fund schools and infrastructure projects.
National Forest Products Week occurs the third week in October as designated by Public Law 86-753 (36 U.S.C. 123), and has authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this week each year. The Montana Legislature established this week in 2011 to honor our forest products industry and extend its appreciation for providing locally made wood products, stewardship of our private and public forests and gainful employment.
“Montana’s National Forests are an important piece of our Montana heritage and play a critical role in supporting good-paying jobs,” Daines stated. “As Montana’s only member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I’m working tirelessly to advance commonsense forest management practices to improve the health of our National Forests by increasing Forest Service management authorities and advocating for reforms to treat wildfires as natural disasters.”
Montana used to boast of a robust timber economy. The deteriorating health of Montana’s National Forests jeopardizes public safety, undermines recreation and hunting and is harmful to habitat:
- Harvests on Montana’s National Forests are down 78 percent since 1987 – 624 million feet down in FY 1987 compared to 140 million board feet in FY 2015.
- Since 1990 Montana has lost over 40% of its forest industry workforce (12,000 to 7,000 jobs) and two-thirds of its mills.
- According to the U.S. Forest Service, as of October 2016 there are 24 National Environmental Policy Act decisions impacted by litigation encumbering forest health projects in Region 1. Sixteen of these projects were developed through a collaborative process.
- Nearly 5 million acres in Montana’s National Forests are impacted by insect infestation and disease and are eligible for expedited restoration work utilizing authorities established by the 2014 Farm Bill. Through FY16, only 6200 acres are in process of approval.
Daines has been actively working to reform outdated forest management policy to increase timber harvests:
On October 4, 2016, Daines and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) called on S.2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act Conferees to accelerate forest management reforms, fix wildfire funding and address the litigation challenges in National Forests.
On September 19, 2016, Daines urged the conferees of S.2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act to support Montana priorities: a wildfire funding fix, Montana’s National Parks, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), rural water projects, the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act, hydropower development and forest management reform that includes litigation relief.
On September 13, 2016, Daines introduced bipartisan 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.
On July 12, 2016, the U.S. Senate took an important step toward forest management reform by authorizing final negotiations with the U.S. House of Representatives on energy legislation that contains important steps forward for accomplishing forestry reform.
On May 2, 2016, Daines introduced legislation that would help accelerate research and development of tall wood buildings in the United States. The Timber Innovation Act will focus on finding innovative ways to use wood in the construction of buildings above 85 feet in height or roughly seven or more stories.
In the FY2017 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, Daines secured language that highlights the importance of the forest products sector to the U.S. economy and the need to develop and utilize new and improved forest products.