Farm Bill Passes House
By John-Miguel Dalbey
The Farm Bill, approved on January 29 by the House of Representatives, appeals to both conservationists and timber harvesters. Bill Imbergamo, executive director of the Federal Forest Resource Coalition, a Washington D.C. trade group lobbying for logging companies, states that the bill “is certainly biased towards increased management, rather than restricting it.” (E&ENews)
In particular, reforms to the Forest Service’s fire prevention policies and timber harvesting contracts — implemented due to an increase in wildfires as well as a loss of forests due to beetle infestation — have brought benefits to both groups. The bill proposes using Healthy Forest Restoration Act procedures already in place in order to “reduce the risk or extent of, or increase the resilience to, insect or disease infestation.” Additionally, the bill allows for the Forest Service to lease as many as five modernized air tankers to fight the drastic increase of wildfire in recent years; this is seen as a major victory for the Forest Service given its aging firefighting equipment.
American Forests, as a member of the Forests in the Farm Bill Coalition (FIFB) and the Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition, supports the Farm Bill, as it allows for key revisions of forest policy. As the bill provides a massive amount of funding, to the tune of $939 billion, it allows for a host of federal programs which benefit forests, the Forest Service and the EPA. The bill’s passing will allow for greatly improved forests across the nation, while allowing for bipartisan support of the issues.
American Forests is also supportive of the bill’s addition of “stewardship contracting,” a side program allowing the Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management to assign 10-year timber harvesting contracts. This would raise revenue for forest management options such as stream rebuilding, hazardous brush or wood removal and road repairs. This program marks a strong step forward for both conservationists and the timber industry, as well as cooperation between the two.