Debate on federal forest payment program to counties resumes this week in Congress, Republicans expected to push for more logging in national forests
October 4, 2011
– The debate will resume this week in Congress on the federal forest payment program to counties for non-taxable national forests, with House Republicans pushing to open the land to more logging and mining in a move aimed to cut federal spending.
Republicans and county officials want to see the bill revamped while environmentalists and the U.S. Forest Service oppose the changes, The Seattle Times reported Oct. 2.
House Republicans want to set minimum required levels for annual timber sales and revenue for each national forest. They also want to speed environmental reviews for logging and other projects on federal lands.
In addition, the Republican proposal to pay counties 75% of revenues from the forests instead of the previous 25% has won support for increased harvesting from county officials.
Logging revenues in national forests dropped 75% from peak activity 20 years ago and now accounts for 3 billion board ft. per year.
In 2000, the decline in logging revenues to counties led them to successfully lobby for new entitlement legislation that changed forest payments so they were paid directly by the U.S. Treasury, reported The Seattle Times.
Counties want to see the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act quickly reauthorized and to see the payments increased.
The program, which originated in 1908 out of a federal plan to reserve land for national forests, expired Friday without any of several reauthorization bills being passed.
For Washington state, 2010 payments of US$34.6 million topped those of any state besides Oregon and California.
The primary source of this article is The Seattle Times, Seattle, Washington, on Oct. 2, 2011.