The Colville National Forest is not just the beautiful view in our back yards. As the economic engine for Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille counties, the Forest provides jobs, energy, and recreational opportunities for our communities in Northeastern Washington.
Over a century ago, the federal government made a promise to actively manage our forests and provide 25% of revenues for schools and communities impacted by National Forest land. However, the federal government has not upheld this commitment – allowing federal regulations and lawsuits to block active forest management. As such, I am committed to seeing the federal government renew its commitment to actively managing our nation’s forests.
In August, I met with local businesses and community members involved with the Colville National Forest to discuss ways to more effectively utilize Forest Service land. Our goal is to promote healthier forests, reduce the risks of forest fires, and strengthen rural economies in Northeastern Washington.
Many people don’t realize that nearly one third of the Colville National Forest, equal to over 300,000 acres, is bug infested.
To encourage better management of these areas and use them to create job growth, I’ve recently sponsored H.R. 1526, the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act. This legislation directs the Forest Service to meet specific harvest levels in certain areas, will help improve forest health and prevent catastrophic wildfires, extends supplemental Secure Rural Schools payments for one year, and would improve local forest management by allowing counties to actively manage portions of National Forest land through the creation of “Community Forest Demonstration Areas.” More importantly, this bill renews the federal government’s commitment to manage federal forests for the benefits of schools and counties and will keep our forests healthy.
In addition, for the past two years, I have been working with local stakeholders and the Forest Service on an innovative public-private partnership in the Colville National Forest. The “A to Z” Mill Creek Pilot Project establishes a 10-year contract on 50,000 acres in the Colville National Forest. It allows for a private company to use private dollars for everything after the timber sale is laid out, including the pre-sale environmental requirements and NEPA. With private funds and local management, the Colville National Forest can be better managed for healthier forests and stable, sustainable revenue.
I believe the Forest Service should work with the timber industry to create jobs and revenue at a time when they are badly needed. This can be done in a way that protects the environment and ensures a sustainable harvest. The “A to Z” Project will demonstrate to the county how it can be done and I want Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille counties to be the model for the rest of the nation.
By cutting the red tape and overregulation by the federal government, the Colville National Forest will continue to be the economic engine for our Northeast Washington counties for years to come. Looking ahead, I will continue to fight for priorities that reflect the needs of the Colville National Forest and the back yards that surround it.