Forestry management reforms needed in 2018 Farm Bill
Although most people don’t give it any thought, virtually everyone uses forest products every day. Forests are especially important to Michigan’s environment, economy and social fabric. Healthy forests play a key role in cleaning air and water, they sustain a $20 billion forest products industry, and they provide countless recreational opportunities. The health of Michigan’s forests and the health of Michigan communities go hand in hand.
For the sake of current and future generations — not just in Michigan, but everywhere – it’s important that national forest policy be based on sound information and that we work hard to keep forests healthy and productive, so they can continue to provide for the natural environment and for mankind.
Michigan’s forests are growing far more timber than is harvested annually. As those forests age and become overcrowded, they also become more susceptible to damage by storms, insects, disease and fires. Investments by forest products firms such as Arauco N.A., Biewer Sawmill, and Potlatch will help to improve the balance between Michigan’s timber harvest and annual growth, but growth still far outpaces consumption. These investments will improve forest health while also supporting additional investments and jobs in various primary and secondary industries.
Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow authored the 2018 Senate Farm Bill, which was passed by the full Senate on June 28th. The House version of the Farm Bill was passed earlier on June 21st and included several key elements important to forest health which were lacking in the Senate version. A House-Senate Conference Committee including members from both chambers will get together in September to work out a final 2018 Farm Bill, with the goal of having a finished product that can pass through Congress and then be signed into law by the President before the end of September.
The House version of the Farm Bill gives federal land agencies important new management tools that are missing in the Senate version. These tools include allowing the U.S. Forest Service to use Categorial Exclusions (CEs) to expedite work on projects ranging from salvage in response to catastrophic events, to using CEs to allow rapid response to insect and disease outbreaks on federal forests.
Senator Stabenow serves as Ranking Member on the Joint Conference Committee and has a unique opportunity to provide leadership for our forests and forested communities. Please consider adding your voice to that of others in urging Senator Stabenow to support incorporating these strong forest management reforms in the 2018 Farm Bill.
Nick Smith and Steve Kariainen