Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act (H.R. 1526)
Status: Passed the House on September 20, 2013 with a bipartisan vote of 244-173. Awaits consideration by the Senate.
The Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act (H.R. 1526), renews the federal government’s commitment to manage federal forests for the benefit of rural schools and counties and to improve forest health. It will put tens of thousands of Americans back to work; provide stable funding for counties to use for education and infrastructure; improve local management of our federal forests; and help reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.
Fast Facts on H.R. 1526:
H.R. 1526 would create over 68,000 direct jobs and nearly 140,000 indirect jobs.*
Timber harvests in our National Forests are down 80% over the last 30 years.
The Forest Service once averaged over $1 billion in revenues annually. It now spends $2 for every $1 it produces.
Last year, wildfires burned 9.3 million acres, while the U.S. Forest Service only harvested approximately 200,000 acres. This means that 44 times as many acres burned as were responsibility harvested.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, 65-82 million acres of Forest Service lands are at high risk of wildfires.
States are able to produce several times more harvest and revenue from a smaller land base than the federal government. For example: Washington state is able to harvest 7 times as much timber and generate 200 times the revenue on 1/4th the land area as the Forest Service.
Supporting Rural Schools and Communities:
The federal government made a promise over a century ago to actively manage our forests and provide 25% of revenues for counties containing National Forest land. Because the federal government doesn’t pay local taxes, this revenue was used to help fund essential services such as schools and roads.
Over the last two decades, federal regulations and environmental lawsuits have caused the rapid decline in timber sales. This lack of active federal forest management has destroyed tens of thousands of jobs, deprived rural counties of revenue, and made our National Forests increasingly susceptible to devastating wildfires and invasive species.
H.R. 1526 reestablishes the priority of actively managing our forests and promotes responsible timber production on Forest Service commercial timber lands – areas that were specifically identified by the Forest Service for timber harvests. It requires the Forest Service to produce at least half of the sustainable yield of timber each year and, as required by law since 1908, share 25% of receipts with the counties to help fund schools and infrastructure projects.
Healthy Forests and Wildfire Prevention:
The lack of management to remove excess growth are making our forests increasingly susceptible to catastrophic wildfires that threaten public safety, the economic livelihood of communities, water supply, and forest health.
H.R. 1526 will help improve forest health and prevent catastrophic wildfires by allowing greater state and local involvement in wildfire prevention on federal lands.
Local Forest Management:
Recognizing that states and counties are often able to better manage forest lands than the federal government, H.R. 1526 would improve local forest management by allowing counties to actively manage portions of National Forest land through the creation of “Community Forest Demonstration Areas.”
It also establishes a Board of Trustees to manage a majority of O&C lands in Oregon and distribute revenues from timber harvests to O&C counties.
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