House approves bill seeking to help manage federal forests

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2013 - The House approved today, on a 244-173 vote, legislation (H.R. 1526) that aims to improve the government's commitment to manage federal forests at the benefit of rural schools and counties.

The Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act received 227 Republican votes and 17 Democratic votes in support, and 172 Democratic votes and one Republican vote in opposition.

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The bill, authored by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings R-Wash., seeks to create more than 200,000 direct and indirect jobs, provide stable funding for counties to use for education and infrastructure, provide nearly $400 million in savings over 10 years, improve local management of federal forests, and help reduce the risk of wildfires.

Provisions in the legislation include:

 

  • Requires responsible timber production on at least half of the Forest Service's commercial timber lands - areas that were specifically identified by the Forest Service for timber harvest.
  • Shares 25 percent of receipts with the counties to help fund schools and infrastructure projects, as required by law since 1908. 
  • Improves forest health and prevent catastrophic wildfires by allowing greater state and local involvement in wildfire prevention on federal lands. 
  • Supports local forest management by allowing counties to actively manage portions of National Forest land through the creation of “Community Forest Demonstration Areas.”
  • Addresses the federal forest lands currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management in Western Oregon, known as “O&C Lands” by establishing a Board of Trustees to manage a majority of O&C lands and distributing revenues from timber harvests to O&C counties.
  • Allows a short-term extension of Secure Rural Schools payments to provide funding to counties as the Forest Service transitions back to active management. 
  • Extends and expands two popular forest management authorities currently in use by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management - Good Neighbor and Stewardship Contracting.

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