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ALC Logo colorJim Geisinger

The forest fire season is upon us. The absence of active management on federal forest lands for the past two decades have left our public forest lands full of excessive fuel. Add to that the severe drought conditions in the western states and we have a tinder box waiting to explode as summer nears.
But help might be on the way with the introduction of the National Forest Management Improvement Act of 2015. The bill was released by the House Natural Resources Committee on May 27 and will be the subject of a hearing on June 3 in the Subcommittee on Federal Lands chaired by California Congressman Tom McClintock.
The bill is intended to change the course in how our national forests are managed. Some of the highlights include:
Providing the Forest Service with expanded authority to use Categorical Exclusions for timber sales and other projects and reduce and streamline environmental analyses for restoration projects developed by collaborative groups.
Give the agency authority to expedite the salvage of timber after wildfires and to reforest and recover national forest lands affected by wildfires.
Require the posting of a bond by groups filing legal challenges of projects that are the product of collaborative planning processes.
Adjusts the uses of Secure Rural Schools Title II funds to create self-sustaining local advisory committees by focusing 50% of the funds to timber management projects and to use the funds generated by such projects for additional work.
Provides for sharing 25% of the revenues generated from Stewardship Contracts with local counties. Currently, the proceeds from Stewardship Contracts are not shared with local governments
Creates a revolving fund allowing the Forest Service to use up to 25% of the revenue from Stewardship Contracts to plan additional projects and amends the Collaborative Landscape Restoration Act to allow these funds to be spent on planning efforts in addition to the implementation of projects.
The bill also requires the Forest Service to engage with state and local governments in the planning and implementation of forest management projects.
While the National Forest Management Improvement Act of 2015 is a work in process, it is certainly a step in the right direction for reforming how the national forests of this country should be managed. The status quo is not acceptable. Our national forests should be a public asset, not a
The Time is Now!
liability. When hundreds of thousands of acres are destroyed every year by wildfires and half of the Forest Service’s budget is spent suppressing them, the public is not being well-served. Something must be changed.
The American Loggers Council has made the reformation of federal forest management policies one of its legislative priorities. We will spend this summer advocating for reforms like those articulated in the National Forest Management Improvement Act of 2015. The time is now. We must stop the destruction of our national treasures.
Jim Geisinger is the Executive Director for the Associated Oregon Loggers based in Salem, Oregon and is also serves as the Legislative Committee Chair for the American Loggers Council. For more information visit the AOL website at www.oregonloggers.org.
The American Loggers Council is a non-profit 501(c) (6) corporation representing professional timber harvesters in 30 states across the US. For more information, visit their web site at www.americanloggers.org or contact their office at 409-625-0206 or email americanlogger@aol.com.