Senators intro bill to double forest restoration funding

Posted: May 21, 2018

Source: News Channel 21

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of senators, led by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), announced the introduction Friday of legislation that would reauthorize and expand the Collaborative Forest Landscape RestorationProgram.

According to a news release from Merkley’s office, “This critical program, which helps fund collaborative and community-based forest management, has a proven track record of improving forest health, reducing wildfire risk, and supporting rural communities.”

In addition to Merkley and Crapo, the legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jim Risch (R-ID), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Tom Udall (D-NM) and Jon Tester (D-MT).

“Collaborative strategies to manage our forests have proven to be a win on many levels: thinning overgrown forests and creating better timber stands, better ecosystems, better fire resistance, more jobs and more sawlogs to the mills,” said Merkley. “I’ve seen firsthand in the Deschutes National Forest the valuable progress that happens when the community works together to manage our forests for the good of everyone. It’s better for everyone when our resources go towards job creation and wildfire prevention, not lawsuits.”

“I have long supported active forest management practices as they play a vital role in reducing the risk of wildfires and fire suppression efforts,” said Crapo. “Collaborative practices provide Idaho’s stakeholders with the tools necessary to improve forest health, encourage the responsible stewardship of our public lands and foster resilient, rural economies.  Ensuring long-term reauthorization of the CFLRP will promote Idaho’s forest health.”

“As a sponsor of the original legislation that established the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, I know just how instrumental these collaborative efforts are to promoting the health of our forests and supporting jobs in rural communities,” Wyden said.

“As an Oregonian, and as a senior member and former chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I’m all too familiar with the significant threat that unhealthy forests pose to western states. By encouraging collaboration among stakeholders at the federal, state and local levels, this program plays a critical role in reducing fire risk, maintaining our forests and empowering rural communities in Oregon and across the country to tackle these challenges head on.”

“The collaborative model is vital in Idaho and has proven to help reduce the fuel load for wildfires, among other positive benefits for our communities,” said Risch. “Renewing this program is another necessary step toward bringing a wide array of interests together to create jobs in increased forest management.”

“In Colorado, collaborative forest projects support local jobs, improve wildlife habitat, and reduce hazardous fuels in critical watersheds. These projects—which bring together local governments, timber and utility stakeholders, and conservation groups—reflect the collaborative way Coloradans do business,” said Bennet, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry, and Natural Resources. “As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I’ll work hard to reauthorize this important program and ensure it receives robust funding.”

“The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program is a commonsense policy to keep our forests healthy and to prevent wildfires,” said Gardner. “This community-based approach recognizes the importance of local knowledge when it comes to forest management and ensures decisions are made with input from the people who live in and around our forests, and the success of the program on the Uncompahgre Plateau and along the front range of Colorado are a testament to this approach. This bipartisan legislation will allow this program to continue and I look forward to seeing it become law soon.”

“This bipartisan effort will support rural communities in New Mexico and across the country as they work to promote healthy forests and grow their economies,” Udall said. “New Mexico communities know too well the increasingly severe toll of wildfires, and that’s why I’m committed to supporting and enhancing common-sense solutions – like this legislation – that are proven to be effective in wildfire prevention. Collaborative approaches to forest management help mitigate and prevent wildfires while engaging local communities and creating jobs for the future.”

“Montana’s Crown of the Continent is home to one of the most successful collaboratives in the nation,” said Tester. “This bill will ensure conservation and timber projects, like the Crown, can continue to create jobs and protect landscapes for future generations.  Reauthorizing the Restoration Program will strengthen our outdoor economy and build healthier forests across the nation.”

This bipartisan legislation would extend the program through 2029, and expand its reach by doubling authorized funding from $40 million to $80 million per year.

Since its enactment in 2009, CFLRP has a proven track record of success in managing forests to increase forest health, mitigate wildfires, and support rural economies and local voices. CFLRP requires various local stakeholders to collaborate, resulting in stronger relationships on the ground, better projects, and a decreased risk of conflict and litigation.

To date, 23 CFLRP projects in 14 states have sold more than 2.5 billion board feet of timber; created $1.4 billion in local labor income; and improved 760 miles of trails for sports enthusiasts and recreation. On average, CFLRP creates or maintains 5,400 jobs each year at current funding levels – a number that would likely increase if funding is expanded, as proposed by today’s bill.

In addition, CFLRP has reduced the risk of megafires on more than 2.9 million acres.

Friday’s legislation is supported by a broad cross-section of the timber industry, rural economic development entities, and environmental organizations, including Sustainable Northwest, Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition, Collins Pine Company, Ochoco Lumber, Vaagen Bros Lumber, Avista, The Wilderness Society, American Forests, Society of American Foresters, Pinchot Institute, Forest Business Network, Blue Mountains Forest Partners, Lake County Resources Initiative, The Forest Stewards Guild, Siuslaw Institute, Wallowa Resources, Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition, The Lands Council, Western Environmental Law Center, Grand Canyon Trust, Mt. Adams Resource Stewards, The Watershed Center, Salmon Valley Stewardship, Western Landowners Alliance, The Coalition for the Upper South Platte, Choose Outdoors, Western Slope Conservation Center, and Western Colorado Progress.

“The CFLR program is a proven model that has extended collaborative forestry on millions of acres, reducing the risk of harmful wildfires while boosting the health of our treasured American forests and the communities that rely on them for strong economies,” said Kameran Onley, The Nature Conservancy’s director of U.S. Government Relations. “The Nature Conservancy is pleased to support this bipartisan bill and urges its timely enactment.”

“Improving forest health and providing good-paying jobs in our community are at the core of our business,” said Bruce Daucsavage, president of Ochoco Lumber Company. “The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program has sustained jobs at our mill, brought diverse stakeholders together, and resulted in significant restoration on the Malheur National Forest. Stable, long-term funding from programs like CFLRP has also provided the certainty we need to justify increased private investments in our operation. Continuing this program is critical.”

“We commend the bipartisan sponsors of this legislation for recognizing the clear benefits the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program provides to our National Forests and rural communities,” said Dylan Kruse, policy director at Sustainable Northwest.

“From reducing wildfire risk, to supporting rural businesses, to improving wildlife habitat and trails for recreation, this program does it all. To date, CFLRP has restored a forested area larger than Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks, combined. It generates outsized impacts, leverages millions of dollars in private resources, and has brought together diverse stakeholders in a way that no other program does. Extending and expanding CFLRP so these successes can be replicated is an easy call and should be a top priority for anyone who cares about the health and well-being of our National Forests and communities that depend on them.”

“The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program is an innovative program that helps restore landscapes and sustain local businesses in the rural West,” said Karen Hardigg, director of the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition. “The multi-year funding structure and required collaborative process are essential ingredients of CFLRP that help the Forest Service meet their commitment to shared stewardship.”

The legislation was referred to the Committee on Agriculture, and the senators said they will be working to include it in the 2018 farm bill.