McMorris Rodgers, Newhouse Introduce FORESTS Act to Reduce Wildfire Risks and Support Timber Communities

Jun 15, 2022
Forestry
Press

Washington, D.C. – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) and Congressman Dan Newhouse (WA-04) today introduced the Fostering Opportunities for Resources and Education Spending through Timber Sales (FORESTS) Act to encourage more proactive management of federal forests, reduce wildfire risks, and provide support to timber communities for investing in educational opportunities and economic development.

“In the Pacific Northwest, forest fires have become an unfortunate part of life, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We’ve seen in Colville National Forest how proactive management and collaboration can help prevent these fires from starting in the first place, which is progress we can build on,” said Rodgers. “The FORESTS Act will take what we know and put it into practice quickly. It includes real solutions that can protect our forests by establishing Forest Active Management Areas, getting management projects off the ground by cutting through the red tape, and opening the doors for more local collaboration – all while giving back to timber communities that help make it possible. This bill is a win-win, and I’m proud to lead it with Congressman Newhouse.”

“Active forest management is critical for reducing hazardous fuels and preventing the catastrophic wildfires facing Central Washington and the West,” said Newhouse. “I am proud to join Rep. McMorris Rodgers in introducing the FORESTS Act to encourage public-private partnerships, cut regulatory red tape, and reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools program our communities depend on. This legislation ensures that local land managers and conservationists can continue to conduct the responsible, innovative management that creates resilient forests and protects rural communities from devastating wildfires.”

The FORESTS Act of 2022 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 is endorsed by the National Association of Counties. In a statement of support for the legislation, Executive Director Matthew Chase said:

“With record heat waves in the West and an overgrown National Forest System, conditions are ripe for another brutal wildfire season that harms the environment, threatens community safety and needlessly sends valuable timber up in smoke. The FORESTS Act would improve forest health and sustainability. It would support National Forest counties by establishing responsibly managed Forest Active Management Areas, involving local governments in forest management decision-making processes, and ensuring counties receive 25 percent of the revenues from new, innovative timber harvests and stewardship contracts. We applaud Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers and Congressman Newhouse for sponsoring the FORESTS Act and urge Congress to pass this legislation.”

CLICK HERE to read the bill. 

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