07.21.22

Three Major Daines Bills One Step Closer to Becoming Law

Daines’ Top Forest Management Priority Clears Committee with Bipartisan Support

U.S. SENATE – Today three bills sponsored by U.S. Senator Steve Daines passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee, including one of Daines’ top forest management priorities that would stop frivolous litigation from holding up forestry projects.

Download Daines’ remarks HERE. 

“My bipartisan bill would put an end to a procedural loophole being abused by fringe groups in the courts to block important forest restoration work that is critical for what I like to call the 4 W’s: reducing wildfire, protecting wildlife, improving watersheds, and supporting workers,” Daines said.

Daines’ bill to reverse the disastrous Cottonwood decision will help increase active forest management by finally aligning consultation requirements in Montana with the rest of the country. This bill passed committee for the first time by a vote of 16-4 and is the first time in years a major forest management bill has passed out of the ENR Committee with such bipartisan support. It is a major win for Montana that will help reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, restore Montana’s forests, and support good-paying timber jobs.

After it passed, Daines said, “We must manage our forests before they manage us. My forest management bill passing out of committee is a big win for Montana and the West, and I will keep working until it becomes law.”

Forest management has been a top priority of Senator Daines’ since his first day in Congress. Click here for a recap video of his efforts. 

“Root & Stem Act” 

Daines’ bipartisan “Root & Stem Act” to empower non-federal groups to collaborate and find creative solutions to improve the health of our forests passed out of committee as well. 

“Collaboration is key—when we work together to design, develop and implement forest management projects we create healthier environments and healthier rural economies. Glad to see this important bill move forward,” Daines said.

“Sun River Hydropower Authorization Act” 

Daines’ bipartisan “Sun River Hydropower Authorization Act” also passed out of committee. The bill would authorize hydropower in the Bureau of Reclamation’s Sun River Project, including at the Gibson Dam.

“In Montana we know the importance of an all-of-the-above energy portfolio, and that includes hydropower. This bill will tap into Montana’s hydropower potential and bring jobs and revenue to our communities,” Daines said.

 

Statements of Support 

“Responsible, active forest management is crucial to the continued health of our forest systems, wildlife populations, and surrounding rural economies,” said Whit Fosburgh, president & CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The Cottonwood fix agreement reached by Senators Daines and Manchin will allow for the Forest Service and local partners to move forward with collaborative work that reduces the risk of wildfire and improves habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities.”

“We thank Senator Daines for his leadership and dogged pursuit of a workable solution to the disastrous “Cottonwood” issue. We need to return the decision making process to the “on the ground” professionals who have the local knowledge and scientific foundations to best implement good forest management. This bill will help alleviate the procedural and litigation grid lock of the past decade, which continually endangers the health and productivity of our public lands and adjoining communities.”— Paul McKenize, VP & General Manager of F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber  

“The Boone and Crockett Club sincerely appreciates the bipartisan efforts of Senator Daines and Senator Manchin for their persistence in legislatively overturning a misguided court ruling that has allowed litigants to stop locally-led, science-based forest restoration and hunter access projects time and time again. We applaud Committee approval of this most important legislation that will ensure the ability to manage our public lands to mitigate wildfire risk, improve habitat for wildlife and enhance opportunities for outdoor recreation” – Tony A. Schoonen, Chief Executive Officer, Boone and Crockett Club

In the Intermountain West there is so much work to be done to address our forest health and wildfire crises.  The work of Senators Daines and Manchin to craft  a bipartisan solution that addresses litigious barriers to accomplishing this work is to be lauded. – Tom Schultz, VP Resources, Idaho Forest Group

FFRC Statement on Committee Action on Daines’ Cottonwood Legislation July 21, 2022: Today, the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee will consider S. 2561, legislation to prevent frivolous lawsuits from delaying critical forest management projects on public lands. FFRC Executive Director Bill Imbergamo released the following statement: “FFRC is pleased to see legislative action to address the wrongly decided Cottonwood precedent, which serial litigators have abused to needlessly delay critically important forest management projects on our National Forests. Today’s legislation doesn’t open a single new acre of land to harvest, it merely relieves the Forest Service and Fish & Wildlife Service of the burden of “consulting” on old Forest Plans, even when neither agency believes the project will harm any listed species. Unless Congress acts on this bill, radical environmental groups will continue to win pointless injunctions against needed forest management projects, like they did in New Mexico in 2019 and 2020. The delays in management there helped contribute to the fuel loads we’ve seen fueling this summer’s Hermit’s Peak Fire, which has devastated over 340,000 acres and cost more than $280 Million to suppress. We applaud the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee for moving this important bill and urge the full Senate to advance it as soon as possible.”

“The National Wild Turkey Federation applauds Senator Daines’ and Manchin’s simple solution to reduce the negative impacts of legal challenges on critical forest restoration work while balancing citizens’ right to legally challenge their government. We greatly appreciate the bipartisan cooperation of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to move this much-needed legislation forward. As the largest stewardship partner of the U.S. Forest Service, too often, we’ve seen desperately needed collaborative forest management work halted by lawsuits initiated by groups opposed to forest management activities. Our national forests are in critical condition, and the costly delays caused by lawsuits are only making conditions worse for our forests, wildlife resources and local communities. In order to lessen the impacts of wildfire, create forests that are resilient to insects, diseases and climate changes, we have to manage these forests.  Management consistent with the forest plans removes hazardous fuels, thins overly dense timber stands, removes invasive species and helps replant burn-scarred landscapes and creates healthy forests.” - NWTF CEO Becky Humphries 

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation applauds Chairman Joe Manchin (WV), Senator Steve Daines (MT) and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for passage of legislation that will end frivolous lawsuits resulting from the 9th Circuit Cottonwood ruling in 2015.  Western wildlife advocates have been frustrated as habitat improvement and wildfire prevention projects have been halted by litigation, only to watch those same forests burn from catastrophic wildfires.  RMEF thanks the Committee for favorably reporting the “Cottonwood Fix” and looks forward to pushing for enactment of this critical, bipartisan measure.” – Kyle Weaver, President and CEO of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) applauds the Committee passage of S. 2561, a bill to override the disastrous Cottonwood decision that is harming our nation’s fish, wildlife, and forests. CSF is proud to work with Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Sen. Daines on S. 2561, and we are grateful for his commitment to secure a fix to this dire issue”,said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane. “With wildfires increasingly devastating our country, this legislation is critical to allow habitat management projects to move forward without the Cottonwood decision looming over the heads of those tasked with managing our public lands.”

Pyramid Mountain Lumber appreciates Senator Daines relentless efforts to fix the “Cottonwood” decision once and for all.  The endless delays in court and delays in process put more communities at risk from wildfires and further reduces forest health due to insect and disease infestations. We thank you for moving forward with a common sense solution that benefits all of Montana’s rural communities and our forest resources. – Gordy Sanders, Resource Manager 

“Today’s bipartisan vote will accelerate urgently needed forest restoration efforts, help ensure healthy ecosystems, and play a key role in addressing the wildfire crisis,” said Brian Yablonski, CEO of The Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). “Following years of research and analysis, PERC identified overturning Cottonwood as a top priority in our Fix America’s Forests report. Sen. Daines and his team have always understood the importance of the issue and thanks to their steadfast commitment, we are thrilled to see Congress advancing this critical step forward.

The Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers thanks Senator Daines for his leadership in securing the bipartisan advancement of S. 2561 today from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Senator Daines’ legislation would fix the Cottonwood decision that has delayed and derailed the ability to complete forestry management activities including projects to enhance wildlife habitat and hunting opportunities. Both the Obama and Trump administrations previously attempted to solve this issue, now this legislation can do just that through a commonsense fix that will benefit all Montanans who enjoy our national forests.” – Kevin Farron, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Montana Chapter Coordinator

"The Mule Deer Foundation thanks Senator Daines and Senator Manchin for their work to pass S.2561 to address the challenges the “Cottonwood” ruling has caused with implementing needed forest management on our National Forests.  This commonsense legislation removes unnecessary barriers to completing projects in a timely manner and will help to end harmful and unnecessary delays in federal forest management, including those to be funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.    By passing this legislation we are one step closer to eliminating costly delays in forest management projects caused by “Cottonwood” litigation that continue to hinder critical forest management activities." - Joel Pedersen, Mule Deer Foundation President & CEO   

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Contact: Rachel Dumke,  Blake Kernen