US Congressman Steve Daines urges Dept. of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to quickly approve Montana Gov. Steve Bullock's proposed priority forest landscapes restoration plan for more than 5 million acres of Montana forestlands

WASHINGTON , April 9, 2014 (press release) – Representative Steve Daines today called on U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to quickly approve Montana Governor Steve Bullock’s proposed priority forest landscapes restoration plan.

Earlier this week, Governor Bullock formally nominated more than 5 million acres of Montana forest lands as “priority landscapes” pursuant to Section 8204 of the Agriculture Act of 2014, or Farm Bill.

If the State of Montana’s proposed priority landscapes are approved, the U.S. Forest Service will prioritize active management and restoration treatments of these regions—helping to address both the dwindling health of Montana’s National Forests and to spur Montana job creation through active forest management.

“Section 8204 of the Agriculture Act of 2014 provides a worthwhile tool towards better treatment of our rural forested communities in Montana,” Daines wrote. “I urge you to utilize your authority under the law to promptly approve Montana’s proposed priority landscapes so that we can perform this critically-needed restoration work without delay.”

Daines, who voted for the Agriculture Act of 2014 earlier this year, noted that the worsening health of Montana forestland has resulted in increased risk of catastrophic wildfire and contributed to suffering economies in Montana’s forested counties.

“The infestation of these lands threatens our robust wildlife populations and habitat, lucrative outdoor recreation industry supported by our Forests, and the livelihoods of workers in Montana’s wood products industry,” Daines added. “I commend Governor Bullock’s plan to prioritize active restoration treatments in all ten of our National Forests in Montana, including in the Kootenai and Lolo National Forests where suitability for timber harvest and unemployment rates are among the highest in our state.”

Daines has successfully worked in the House to move forward forest management reforms that would create thousands of good-paying jobs and increase the health of Montana’s forests.

H.R. 1526, the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, which Daines joined Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings in introducing last April, works to help revitalize Montana’s timber industry and create thousands of good, long-term jobs, while addressing beetle kill, protecting the environment for future generations and reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfires in Montana. It was approved by the House Natural Resources Committee in July and passed by the full House in September.

Daines’ letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack may be found here. Text is below:




April 9, 2014

The Honorable Tom Vilsack, Secretary
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

I write to urge swift consideration and approval of Montana Governor Steve Bullock’s proposed priority landscapes for active forest treatment pursuant to Section 8204 of the Agriculture Act of 2014. I was proud to support passage of this Act as it helps to address the immense challenge to active management of our National Forests in Montana.

As Governor Bullock’s letter states, 7,645,000 acres of forestland in Montana are at risk of mortality from insects and diseases over the next five years. The infestation of these lands threatens our robust wildlife populations and habitat, lucrative outdoor recreation industry supported by our Forests, and the livelihoods of workers in Montana’s wood products industry. The worsening infestation challenge also significantly increases the risk of catastrophic wildfires that endanger human lives and cost the Forest Service millions of dollars each year to suppress. Governor Bullock has requested the Forest Service to approve the state’s priority landscapes within ninety days. I urge you to approve his plan as expeditiously as possible within that time period considering the urgency and severity of the challenges in Montana’s National Forests.

It is also important to consider that, over the last five years, National Forest timber sales in Montana have declined by 58% and the National Forests in my state have sold an average of 50% of the Allowable Sale Quantity called for in their current Forest Plans. Meanwhile, our mills in Montana must obtain logs from hundreds of miles away, in other states, to keep their businesses afloat and resources deteriorate in Montana forests. Poverty rates in forested counties are well above the state average. I commend Governor Bullock’s plan to prioritize active restoration treatments in all ten of our National Forests in Montana, including in the Kootenai and Lolo National Forests where suitability for timber harvest and unemployment rates are among the highest in our state.

Section 8204 of the Agriculture Act of 2014 provides a worthwhile tool towards better treatment of our rural forested communities in Montana. I urge you to utilize your authority under the law to promptly approve Montana’s proposed priority landscapes so that we can perform this critically-needed restoration work without delay. Thank you for your consideration of this request, and I look forward to your response and to continuing to work together for the benefit of forested counties in Montana and nationwide.

Sincerely,



STEVE DAINES
Member of Congress

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