COLVILLE, WA – Today, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) held a Summit with a panel of local business and community leaders involved in the Colville National Forest to discuss how to more effectively utilize Forest Service land to promote healthier forests, reduce the risks of forest fires, and strengthen rural economies.
Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers said, “The Colville National Forest is the economic engine for our Northeastern Washington counties and healthy forests mean healthy communities. Of the 1.1 million acre Colville National Forest, over 300,000 acres are bug infested. In addition, it has the potential to bring more jobs, recreation and increased local revenue to Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille counties.”
The federal government made a promise over a century ago to actively manage our forests and provide 25% of revenues for schools and counties impacted by National Forest land. But declining timber harvests has meant dramatically less revenue.
McMorris Rodgers is an original sponsor of H.R. 1526, Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act. It 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.”
The bill is expected to be on the House Floor this fall.
McMorris Rodgers has also been working for the past two years to initiate an innovative public-private partnership in the national forest.
The “A to Z” Mill Creek Pilot Project sets up a 10-year contract on 50,000 acres in the Colville National Forest. It allows 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 managed for healthier forests and stable, sustainable revenue.
According to McMorris Rodgers, the Washington Department of Natural Resources produces seven times the timber from one-quarter of the acreage as the Forest Service in Washington state.
“The Forest Service should work with the timber industry to create jobs and revenue at a time when they are badly needed, while still protecting the environment and ensuring a sustainable harvest. This pilot project will show how it can be done, and I want Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties to be model for the rest of the country.”
The winning bid will be announced in September.