Washington, D.C. – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) today introduced the Fostering Opportunities for Resources and Education Spending through Timber Sales (FORESTS) Act. This legislation would encourage more proactive management of federal forests, reduce wildfire risks, and provide support to timber communities for investing in educational opportunities and economic development.
“When wildfire smoke drifted down the East Coast earlier this month, many Americans were forced to face a reality we endure every single summer in Eastern Washington. For decades, catastrophic fires have ripped through our communities and diminished quality of life. But it doesn’t need to be this way,” said Rodgers. “The FORESTS Act is a results-driven approach that takes what we’ve learned through proactive and collaborative management of the Colville National Forest and puts it into practice quickly. By cutting through the red tape, opening the door for more local collaboration, and giving back to timber communities that help make it possible, this legislation is the key to ensuring our forests are healthy, keeping our communities safe, and shielding everyone from the harms of poor air quality.”
The FORESTS Act of 2023 will:
- Establish Forest Active Management Areas (FAMA) within each National Forest Unit and set an annual volume requirement for timber production within each FAMA to help manage areas that are identified as overstocked and suitable for commercial harvest.
- Encourage Collaborative Forest Management Projects by prioritizing local collaboration including planning, decision-making, and management processes with input from multiple interested parties representing diverse interests.
- Cut Regulatory Red Tape by categorically excluding the designation and management of Forest Active Management Areas from the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). It will also reform the litigation process to allow projects negotiated by collaboratives to utilize arbitration instead of judicial review.
- Support Timber Communities by giving counties in which a project is conducted 25 percent of the revenues generated by a management project in a FAMA. Additionally, the bill allows for communities to benefit from timber receipts resulting from stewardship contracts within their county.
The FORESTS Act has gained support from rural communities in Eastern Washington.
“Year after year, we watch our national forest burn, putting communities at risk of burning homes and infrastructure while inundating surrounding counties and states with smoke for weeks and months on end,” said Stevens County Commissioner Wes McCart. “This cycle must stop, and the FORESTS Act is a long overdue step in the right direction. We need good forest stewardship now to stop this devastation while supporting local communities.”
“The epidemic of wildfires across timber counties is a predictable result of forest mismanagement. The catastrophic loss of wildlife and habitat in these scenarios is almost entirely preventable with proper forest management and a vision informed by subject matter experts. The FORESTS act is that vision,” said Pend Oreille County Commissioner John Gentle. “The FORESTS act is both timely and necessary to curtail the cycle of burning federal forest lands that so significantly impact timber counties around the nation. The men and women ‘in the trenches’ are working professionals who have dedicated their lives to managing their own timber stands, and it is time we lean on them for the stewardship of our forests.”
“For those that live, work, and play in and near our National Forest, it is clear there is a problem in much of our forest. A century of fire suppression combined with a misguided ‘hands off’ management attitude have left much of the forest unnaturally overcrowded with inappropriate small diameter fuels,” said Pend Oreille County Commissioner Brian Smiley. “Projects such as the A to Z stewardship project on our own Colville National Forest prove that communities can work together to achieve common sense solutions to help prevent a looming wildfire disaster and support local industry and jobs. The Forest Act expands and continues that vital work on our forest.”
“Forests are vital to Pend Oreille County; we rely on the jobs they provide. Unfortunately, timber production has drastically fallen on federal lands. This has depressed tax revenue and led to catastrophic wildfires due to unsatisfactory forest management practices,” said Pend Oreille County Commissioner Robert Rosencrantz. “The FORESTS Act of 2023 will encourage active forest management on federal forest land. The legislation will also encourage local collaboration and decision-making within our national forests. This kind of local collaboration has been successful in other formats, such as with the Colville National Forest A-Z Project. Additionally, the FORESTS Act of 2023 will send more money to timber communities by making counties eligible for 25 percent of the revenues generated by projects in a FAMA. As a county that is resource-challenged, Pend Oreille County would welcome that.”
CLICK HERE to read the bill.