This isn’t something that has been discussed here, but in the last couple of days I’ve seen two stories that make it sound like the greatest thing since tab tops.
The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest may sell 123 million board feet of timber by the end of fiscal 2017, WJFW-TV reported. That would mark the fifth annual increase in a row for the forest, which is nearing its maximum yield. Forest Supervisor Paul Strong said this year’s expected yield is “absolutely great news.” The forest’s management plan aims to sell 131 million board feet annually. Strong said the timber program has grown thanks to the National Forest Services’ increased authority under the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill and policies allowing organizations to remove small trees and keep the timber. He also cited the federal Good Neighbor Authority policy, which has allowed the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to manage the sale of about 25 million board feet of timber in the national forest annually.
Idaho has been seeing success with using the “Good Neighbor Authority” it was granted under the 2014 federal Farm Bill to partner with the U.S. Forest Service and increase active management and timber harvests on national forests in the state – and it’s poised to ramp the program up. Under GNA, the state Department of Lands can offer its expertise and help to the Forest Service where the service’s staffing is short, for everything from administering contracts for timber sales to jointly designing projects that are backed by local collaboratives. Because Idaho had numerous forest collaboratives already in place – which bring together sportsmen, conservationists, industry, local government and more to help design projects to improve forests in their area – it was able to spring into action. Schultz said the piece Idaho’s been able to include that earlier states didn’t is actual timber sales – which add the jobs and economic impact piece, along with fund the program itself. Jonathan Oppenheimer, government relations director for the Idaho Conservation League, attended the Land Board meeting. “We’ve been involved in a lot of these collaboratives,” he said afterward. “We are cautiously supportive of the program. We see it as a good way to get work done.” He called GNA “a good tool, but one that we’re certainly watching closely.”
The Good Neighbor Authority allows the Forest Service to enter into cooperative agreements or contracts with States and Puerto Rico to allow the States to perform watershed restoration and forest management services on National Forest System (NFS) lands. Congress passed two laws expanding Good Neighbor Authority (GNA): the FY 2014 Appropriations Act and the 2014 Farm Bill. Each law contains slightly different versions.
The Farm Bill permanently authorizes the Good Neighbor Authority for both the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) extending it to all 50 States and Puerto Rico. It excludes construction, reconstruction, repair, or restoration of paved or permanent roads or parking areas and construction, alteration, repair, or replacement of public buildings or works; as well as projects in wilderness areas, wilderness study areas, and lands where removal of vegetation is prohibited or restricted.
The Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Appropriations Act included a five-year authorization for the use of GNA in all states with NFS lands to perform watershed restoration and protection services on NFS and BLM lands when similar and complementary services are performed by the state on adjacent state or private lands. Other than the adjacency requirement, there were no exclusions as to type or location of work.
Is there more here than meets the eye (good or bad)? It does help with the financing. Focusing on national forest lands that are “adjacent” to state or private lands seems like it would minimize controversy. No mention of a collaboration requirement, but that seems to figure into it somehow. If this is working so well, does the FS need more legislation?