Daines, Klobuchar Introduce Legislation to Encourage Cross Boundary Management of Forests to Protect Water Resources, Enhance Wildlife Habitat, Restore Forest Health, and Strengthen Local Economies

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) have 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 Empowering State Forestry to Improve Forest Health Act of 2017 would encourage a landscape approach to forest management. The bill has been endorsed by the American Forest Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters. 

“I’ve been working closely with Montanans to make sure that we have locally-driven management of our forests,” said Daines. “This bipartisan solution will maintain healthy forests, increase the role of state management of federal land and create more good paying jobs.”

“Minnesota’s forests don’t just provide recreational opportunities and environmental benefits. They can also sustain rural economies,” said Klobuchar. “That’s why our bipartisan bill will encourage forest management projects, which will help protect water resources, enhance wildlife habitat, restore forest health, and strengthen our local economies.” 

The Empowering State Forestry to Improve Forest Health Act of 2017:

  • 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 process 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.
  • Bolsters the use of Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) by empowering State Foresters to use fuels reduction funds for GNA projects. 

Daines has long been working to move forward commonsense 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.

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.”

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. We certainly support the cross boundary forest management, fuels reduction and landscape restoration provisions of this bill. It sure makes a lot more sense to take a proactive approach to reducing fuels and improving watersheds and landscapes now rather than dealing with massive wildfire suppression efforts later.” 

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.”