US Forest Service should prioritize prompt return to work for purchasers and restoration professionals after government shutdown, says Colorado US senator, welcomes decision to reinstate timber sales, stewardship contracts, in national forests

WASHINGTON , October 17, 2013 (press release) – Essential forestry functions were suspended by shutdown, decision comes on heels of Bennet letter

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet applauded the Forest Service's decision today to reinstate timber sales and stewardship contracts on national forest lands following the reopening of the federal government. The decision comes on the heels of a letter Bennet sent to Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell today urging the immediate reinstatement of these important tools. Colorado’s timber industry is already in need of additional timber from federal lands to continue their operations, a situation exacerbated by the government shutdown.

Stewardship contracting is a critical tool that allows the Forest Service to employ public-private partnerships to carry out projects that maintain healthy forests and create employment and business opportunities. Colorado is among the states with the most stewardship contracts underway.

In the letter to Chief Tidwell today, Bennet wrote, "As you know, these sales and contracts are important economic drivers in rural communities. The treatments carried out through timber sales and stewardship contracts also contribute to the overall health of our national forests and help guard against catastrophic wildfire and insect outbreaks."

"Now that the shutdown is over, allowing purchasers and restoration professionals to promptly get back to work in the woods should be a priority for the Forest Service; particularly when many regions are facing only a few short weeks before winter logging restrictions take effect."

As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Forestry, Conservation, and Natural Resources Bennet successfully fought to include the permanent reauthorization of stewardship contracting in the Senate version of the 2013 Farm Bill, which passed the Senate in June. Recently, Bennet was appointed to serve as a member of the Farm Bill Conference Committee which will work out the differences between the Senate and House passed versions of the bill.

Full Text of the letter is below:

October 17, 2013

Dear Chief Tidwell:

Following the reopening of the federal government this morning, I write to request your swift action to reinstate suspended timber sales and stewardship contracts on national forest lands across the country. As you know, these sales and contracts are important economic drivers in rural communities. The treatments carried out through timber sales and stewardship contracts also contribute to the overall health of our national forests and help guard against catastrophic wildfire and insect outbreaks.

Even before the shutdown, I heard from a variety of stakeholders in my home state of Colorado about the current lack of timber to supply local mills. This is why the Senate Agriculture Committee included a reauthorization of stewardship contracting authority in the Senate Farm Bill, and why securing that reauthorization is a top priority of mine as the Farm Bill conference committee convenes. After the October 1st shutdown, the chorus of concerns about the volume of timber coming off federal lands only grew louder. Now that the shutdown is over, allowing purchasers and restoration professionals to promptly get back to work in the woods should be a priority for the Forest Service; particularly when many regions are facing only a few short weeks before winter logging restrictions take effect.

I urge you to move quickly to resume the work needed to keep our forests healthy and to keep the engines of our rural economies churning. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Michael F. Bennet
Member, Senate Committee of Agriculture
Chairman, Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry and Natural Resources

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