WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 23, 2017) – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) today introduced the Fostering Opportunities for Resources and Education Spending through Timber Sales (FORESTS) Act of 2017 to reaffirm the federal government’s century-old commitment to responsibly managing forest lands for the benefit of rural counties. This legislation will incentivize local collaboration and decision-making within national forests, promote active forest management, and encourage public-private partnerships, like the A to Z project on the Colville National Forest.
“When you think of the Pacific Northwest, chances are you think of our forests. But without proper management, this valuable resource is at risk of devastation,” said McMorris Rodgers. “The FORESTS Act provides certainty for counties and school districts by reauthorizing the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program and encourages a common-sense, collaborative approach to forest management that will empower communities, improve forest health, reduce wildfires, and put people back to work.”
This legislation works in four ways. First, it promotes active forest management by requiring the Secretary of Agriculture to establish one or more Forest Active Management Areas (FAMAs) in each unit of the National Forest System, and requiring the U.S. Forest Service to produce at least half of the sustainable timber yield in each FAMA each year.
Second, it encourages public-private partnerships between industry, environment, state, local, and tribal groups to responsibly manage federal forests. Third, it reauthorizes the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program to continue the commitment of the federal government to rural communities by redirecting revenues from timber sales to be used for public schools, roads, and other municipal needs. Lastly, the legislation reforms the litigation process to allow projects negotiated by collaboratives to utilize an arbitration process to incentivize differing interests to work together on solutions to manage our forests.
Rep. McMorris Rodgers also released this video today on the importance of the FORESTS Act and the need for active forest management on federal forests. You can watch it here:
Note: Rep. McMorris Rodgers also introduced this legislation during the 114th Congress, of which many provisions were included in the Resilient Federal Forests Act, which passed the House in July of 2015.
Earlier this year, the Congresswoman introduced separate legislation to extend the SRS program through Fiscal Year 2018. Nearly 100 years ago, Congress passed legislation to specify that 25 percent of revenues from timber harvests on federal lands would be shared with affected counties. With the downturn in timber production on federal lands, the SRS program was established in 2000 to renew this commitment to timberlands, but has remained expired since September 30, 2015. The program impacts seven counties within the Fifth Congressional District and 27 across Washington state.
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