Policy Update, October 2016

Policy Update, October 2016

Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Appropriations

Shortly before the September 30 deadline, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to begin FY2017. The 10-week CR funds the federal government until December 9, 2016. Upon return from the November 8 elections, Congress will have approximately three weeks time to enact spending legislation, making appropriations the top priority during the lame-duck session. It remains to be determined how the 11 remaining annual appropriations bills will be bundled and considered. The spending bills could be combined into a single omnibus package or they could be divided into several smaller packages known as “minibuses” with the possibility for some combination of minibuses and a CR for the remainder of FY2017. 

The National Association of State Foresters (NASF) FY2017 appropriations recommendations for priority programs are found here. And the NASF FY2017 appropriations printable leave-behind is found here.  

Environmental and Economic Benefits Restoration Act of 2016

Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Steve Daines (R-MT) introduced the bipartisan legislation, Environmental and Economic Benefits Restoration Act of 2016, in September. The bill (S.3310) would codify the Landscape Scale Restoration Program of the USDA Forest Service’s State & Private Forestry organization into law. Additionally, S.3310 would amend the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003 to support a portion of hazardous fuels reduction funds to be used towards cross-boundary treatments on Federal, State, county, or tribal land, private land, and other non-Federal land, particularly in areas identified in State Forest Action Plans. Identified hazardous fuels reduction funds may be used to to conduct Good Neighbor Authority projects. The bill text is found here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/11...

NASF supports the bill and in a September NASF press release, Executive Director Jay Farrell stated, “Forest threats including catastrophic wildfire, invasive insects and disease know no boundaries. That is why landscape-scale, cross-boundary forest management projects are so critical to protect the nation’s forests and communities. State Foresters are grateful for the leadership of Senators Daines and Klobuchar and we encourage members of Congress to work together to pass this legislation this year.” Read more from the NASF press release here: http://www.stateforesters.org/NA....  

Energy Conference

In early October, Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) sent a letter to the Energy Conference Committee leadership (for the Energy Policy Modernization Act, S.2012) supporting the inclusion of a wildfire funding fix and provisions that increase the pace and scale of forest management in a final energy bill. 

The Senators call attention to the 2016 wildfire season and its devastating impacts in California. Further, the Senators call attention to challenges such as prolonged drought and/or insect infestations that have left millions of acres in California and Montana at high risk of wildfire. As cosponsors of the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (S.235), the Senators urge reforms in the final energy bill to, “enable the Forest Service to pay for fighting extraordinary wildfires similarly to how other agencies pay for disaster responses - through funding that is unconstrained by stringent spending caps.”

In addition, the letter addresses legislative concepts and proposals that would improve forest health and address chronic challenges impeding forest restoration efforts. The two Senators indicate support for several sections of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee discussion draft, Wildfire Budgeting, Response, and Forest Management Act. They call attention to incentivizing the collaborative planning processes via a pilot arbitration program and support for inclusion of expanding landscape-scale restoration and cross-boundary projects, consistent with S.3310 (details above), to assist with the management of privately owned lands and to further reduce wildfire risks on all lands. 

Link to the Senators Daines and Feinstein letter here: https://www.daines.senate.gov/im....

The link to Senator Daines’ press release is found here: https://www.daines.senate.gov/news/press-releases/daines-feinstein-call-on-energy-conferees-to-accelerate-forest-management-fix-wildfire-funding