The bill’s forestry provisions brought praise from timber land owners, loggers and The Wilderness Society, a groups seeking additional forest preservation.
The most ambitious provision requires Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack to grant a Governor’s request to establish one or more landscape-scale “treatment areas” up to 3,000 acres, where old growth timber would be protected, wilderness study areas avoided and collaborative support present. The areas must be on a map of forests where insects and invasive species are threatening forest health.
The Forest Service could approve the projects with streamlined “categorical exclusions under the National Environmental Policy Act. Idaho has projects like these in several Idaho national forests including the Payette, Boise, Clearwater-Nez Perce and Panhandle. Governors would have just 60 days after enactment of the bill to seek designation.
“The Wilderness Society is committed to seeing these provisions effectively implemented on the ground and being part of the solution in advancing comprehensive forest restoration projects,” said Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams.
The Associated Logging Contractors of Idaho and the National Alliance of Forest Owners praised the Idaho Congressional delegation for its efforts on behalf of a provision that preserves treating forest roads and forest management as nonpoint sources regulated by state rules instead of the Environmental Protection Agency. In a rare show of unanimity, Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Reps. Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador all voted for the bill.
Idaho State Sen. Shawn Keough, executive director of the logging contractors, said preserving the use of “best management practices,” will protect 18,000 timber jobs in Idaho.
The bill also permanently authorized the stewardship contracting program that allows the Forest Service to use the revenue from timber harvests for other restoration work, and a “good neighbor policy” that allows state foresters to oversee timber projects on national forests after the Forest Service completes its environmental reviews.
The bill also provides a one-year extension of the payment in lieu of taxes program for local governments with public lands in their jurisdictions.
“We applaud Congress for inclusion of these pro-forestry provisions in the bill,” said Dave Tenny the forest owners executive director, who is originally from Boise.