(PRESS RELEASE/McMorris Rodgers)
Last week, Eastern Washington US Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers and representative Dan Newhouse introduced the Fostering Opportunities for Resources and Education Spending through Timber Sales (FORESTS) Act of 2019 to encourage active forest management on federal forest land. The congresswoman’s office says this will create local collaboration and decision-making within national forests, and reaffirm the federal government’s commitment to timber-dependent communities.
“Every summer, all of us here in the Pacific Northwest feel the impact of catastrophic wildfire, but through local collaboration and active forest management, we can work to ensure our forests are healthy,” said McMorris Rodgers. “This legislation will accomplish that by establishing Forest Active Management Areas in each unit of the National Forest System, getting our forests working again and opening the door for industry, conservation groups, tribes, and local communities to work together to reduce the risk of fire. This bill will also extend the Secure Rural Schools program to continue the commitment to our timber-dependent communities.”
McMorris Rogers’ office said 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.