Coalition of US senators led by Colorado's Mark Udall urges Farm Bill committee to reauthorize Stewardship Contracting Authority in final legislation, allowing public-private partnerships to manage forest health, reduce wildfire risk

WASHINGTON , December 5, 2013 (press release) – Mark Udall, who serves on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, led a bipartisan group of senators today urging the Farm Bill conference committee to include critical forest health provisions in the final legislation. Udall and the bipartisan coalition said Good Neighbor Authority and Stewardship Contracting - which allows agencies to work collaboratively across state and local boundaries to reduce wildfire risks and promote public-private partnerships to manage forest health, respectively - are essential for Colorado and western communities.

"We urge the conferees to reauthorize and expand Good Neighbor Authority nationally and to permanently reauthorize Stewardship Contracting Authority," Udall and the senators wrote in their letter. "These programs will streamline federal funds and increase the role of state and local agencies in federal forest management, while keeping our lands healthy, protect communities and save money in the long-term by mitigating our risks for catastrophic wildfires."

Stewardship Contracting allows the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to enter into long-term contracts to reduce wildfire risk and improve forest health. Stewardship contracts create jobs by allowing the federal government to partner with private businesses to clear brush, produce timber products, generate biomass energy, and strengthen forest health. The authority has been used to treat more than 545,625 acres nationwide.

Good Neighbor Authority, which is currently only allowed in Colorado and Utah, allows state foresters to work across local and state boundaries to perform forest, rangeland and watershed restoration services on National Forest System and BLM land.

Udall has introduced stand-alone legislation that would permanently reauthorize Stewardship Contacting authority and successfully fought to move legislation that would expand Good Neighbor Authority. Udall has also been a strong proponent of the Senate's bipartisan Farm Bill and has partnered with the Colorado Farm Bureau and the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union to push the U.S. House of Representatives to act and pass a deficit-reducing Farm Bill.

U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho) also signed the letter.

To read the bipartisan letter, click HERE.

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