03.21.18

Daines Secures Forest Management Reform to Restore Local Collaboration and Protect Montanans from Wildfires

Says much more work remains on commonsense management reforms 

U.S. SENATE — U.S. Senator Steve Daines today released the following statement after securing forest management and wildfire funding reforms in the omnibus appropriations bill. While much more remains to be done, the package includes many of Daines' priorities to restore local control and better protect Montanans from wildfires.

The funding bill reverses the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' Cottonwood decision, which Daines has long fought for, as well as Daines-led initiatives to reform the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) project planning process, expand tree and brush clearings, reform vegetation management around power lines, allow for more road repairs when carrying out Good Neighbor Authority projects, strengthen wildfire funding, and reauthorize Secure Rural Schools.

“Too many Montanans have been harmed by mismanaged forests, excessive red tape, litigation from environmental extremists and flawed wildfire funding mechanisms,” said Daines. “Today’s package is a good step toward improving forest management. Unfortunately, left-wing groups were successful in blocking other bipartisan reforms to reduce red tape and combat litigation, but I will continue to fight for these reforms in the farm bill and other legislation.”

Statements of Support:

“Montana’s forested counties have faced real challenges in recent years, and we thank Senator Daines for working with us to address these challenges. This forest reform package will mean healthier forests, and healthier economies for forested counties. It also provides vital SRS payments that will make it easier for counties to provide essential public services.” - Greg Chilcott, Ravalli County Commissioner and Chair of the Montana Coalition of Forest Counties

“We thank Senator Daines for his hard work on many of the important issues that timber-dependent counties face. Without the renewal of SRS, timber-dependent counties including Mineral County would continue to face undue hardship. Keep up the good work, Senator!” - Duane Simons, Mineral County Commissioner

“Forest reform is critically important to Mineral County, our schools and our local economy. We thank Senator Daines for listening carefully and working hard to help us.” - Carol Young, Chair, Mineral County Resource Coalition

“I appreciate Senator Daines work towards forest management reform and a possible reduction in litigation as we harvest our forests, which are renewal resources.” - Pam Holmquist, Flathead County Commissioner

“I want to share my heartfelt gratitude to Senator for his years of dedication to meaningful forest management reform and getting this significant legislation into the upcoming omnibus bill. He has steadfastly carried the torch for common sense measures that will give the forest service better tools to streamline timber management projects, enhance habitat, and provide wildland fire funding. These measures will also provide an economic stimulus and critical SRS funds to rural counties. Thank you again, Senator Daines!” - Mark Peck, Lincoln County Commissioner

“Spending on wildland fire fighting and litigation continues to impact the ability of federal land management agencies to address their forest health, recreation, research and infrastructure responsibilities. We appreciate Sen. Daines’ efforts to include provisions in the FY18 Omnibus spending bill to address fire funding and forest management challenges. We look forward to working with Sen. Daines and other members of Congress on additional measures to ensure agencies can implement active forest management projects to enhance wildlife habitat.” - Nancy Holland, President & CEO, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

“This provision paves the way for electric co-ops to bolster system reliability by improving access to manage vegetation on public lands. By reducing bureaucratic red tape, the legislation helps prevent delays that add to electricity costs while protecting safety, wildlife habitat and reliability of our power supply. Electric cooperatives appreciate the steady leadership of Senator Daines on this issue.” - Jim Matheson, CEO National Rural Electric Cooperative Association 

“This legislation is a win for Montana electric cooperative consumer-owners and the management of federal lands. It’s a victory over bureaucratic red tape that will help prevent power outages, protect the affordability of consumer-owners’ electricity as well as greatly reduce the risk of wildfires. Thank you to Senator Daines for his strong and effective leadership on this legislation.” - Dave Wheelihan, CEO, Montana Electric Cooperatives’ Association

“The Edison Electric Institute applauds the inclusion of important vegetation management provisions in the omnibus appropriations bill. The provisions will improve coordination between electric companies and the federal land agencies, enhancing energy grid reliability and reducing wildfire risks through tree-trimming and other maintenance efforts around power lines that cross public lands." - Edison Electric Institute

“The passage of this common-sense legislation is the culmination of tireless effort by cooperative leaders and our elected officials in Washington D.C.  I’m extremely proud of the role that Sen. Daines played in that effort, and I look forward to improved consistency, timeliness and accountability when dealing with vegetation management issues on federally managed lands.” - Mark Hayden, general manager, Missoula Electric Cooperative

“We appreciate Senator Steve Daines’ leadership and his key role in securing bipartisan fire funding and forest management solutions.  Sen. Daines brought national attention to the disastrous Ninth Circuit Cottonwood decision.  His work to reverse this decision will protect thousands of family wage jobs in Montana and throughout the West.   In addition, the forest management reforms contained in the omnibus legislation will help reduce the risks of catastrophic wildfire, insect infestations and disease on federally-owned forest lands.  We’ve always appreciated Sen. Daines’ knowledge and understanding of forestry issues.  His hard work is resulting in real solutions for Montana’s forests and communities.” - Travis Joseph, President of the American Forest Resource Council

“The Montana Association of Counties would like to extend a great deal of gratitude for your relentless efforts in the fight for active fire management, Secure Rural Schools (SRS) reauthorization, and wildfire funding. This deal will provide our counties with some much-needed relief. We would also be remiss if we did not thank you for your persistence on the full funding of PILT (Payments In Lieu of Taxes). Both of these programs help Montana’s counties, and many counties all over the nation, provide essential services to our respective citizens and visitors.” - Harold Blattie, Executive Director Montana Association of Counties

“This historic agreement will benefit Montana’s overstocked and infested forests, assist Montana communities fend off catastrophic wildfire, and vastly improve critical wildlife habitat. Legislative battles are never over, and the MLA is confident that Senator Daines’ leadership will prove invaluable as we endeavor to ensure that Montana’s renewable forests provide opportunities for generations to come.” - Keith Olson, Montana Logging Association

“F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Co. thanks Senator Daines and the bipartisan group of senators and representatives who worked hard to make forest management reform a reality. These measures will give the U.S. Forest Service and other land management agencies the tools to ensure we have a steady supply of logs to our mill, allowing us to continue to provide good paying jobs in the Flathead Valley, while also enhancing the health of our public lands.” - Chuck Roady, President, F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Co. 

Background:

On February 8, 2018, Daines at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing outlined his energy infrastructure priorities and called for action on forest management to decrease the risk of wildfires in Montana and reduce bureaucratic hurdles that challenge the security of power lines.

On December 6, 2017, the National Association of State Foresters (NASF) presented Senator Steve Daines with the 2017 Bernard L. Orell Award.

On November 16, 2017, Daines introduced the Protect Collaboration for Healthier Forests Act to accelerate badly needed and locally supported forest management projects that will improve the health of national forests and get loggers back to work. 

On September 27, 2017, Daines testified in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on his bill to reverse the ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cottonwood Environmental Law Center v. U.S. Forest Service.  

On September 20, 2017, Daines wrote an editorial in the Washington Post highlighting the urgent need for forest management reform as the West faced one of the worst fire seasons in recent history. 

On September 19, 2017, Daines discussed the importance of land managers working together with power providers to protect Montana’s electric grid reliability and reduce the severity and intensity of wildfires.

On September 7, 2017, in a letter to then-Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke, Daines highlighted the need for urgent forest management reforms to reduce the severity and intensity of wildfires to help prevent against another fire season like Montana saw in 2017. 

On September 6, 2017, Daines took to the Senate floor to raise awareness and draw attention to the fires burning in Montana.  

On April 27, 2017, Daines introduced the bipartisan Empowering State Forestry to Improve Forest Health Act of 2017, legislation to encourage cross boundary management of forests to protect water resources, enhance wildlife habitat, restore forest health and strengthen local economies. 

On March 3, 2017, Daines introduced legislation to reverse the ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cottonwood Environmental Law Center v. U.S. Forest Service.

On February 8, 2017, Daines pressed again for action to provide relief on vegetation management around electricity rights-of-way.

On December 9, 2016, Daines introduced legislation to reverse the ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cottonwood Environmental Law Center v. U.S. Forest Service.

On September 23, 2016, Daines called on Congress to support Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and Secure Rural Schools (SRS) in letters to the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders.

On September 13, 2016, Daines introduced the bipartisan Empowering State Forestry to Improve Forest Health Act of 2017, legislation to encourage cross boundary management of forests to protect water resources, enhance wildlife habitat, restore forest health and strengthen local economies.

On June 24, 2016, Daines moved forward forest management reforms to improve the health of Montana’s national forests, create good-paying jobs and provide Montanans with the economic certainty they deserve.

On June 16, 2016, Daines secured many important resources for Montana to fully fund wildfire suppression in the bipartisan FY2017 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill.

On April 29, 2015, Daines pushed the U.S. Forest Service to expedite Secure Rural Schools (SRS) payments to rural Montana counties in a letter to then-Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.

On April 15, 2015, Daines voted to reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools program for two years.

On February 11, 2015, Daines called on Senate and House leaders to swiftly move forward legislation to reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program.

On January 23, 2015, Daines introduced the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, which overhauls federal wildfire policy, increases funding for prevention and ensures large forest fires are treated and funded as true natural disasters.

 

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