Two bills targeting forest health and rural economies (via timber harvesting) clear the US House Natural Resources Committee

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Legislation that would improve forest health and assist rural economies advanced Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives. Two bills were combined to reduce the threat of wildfire and to increase timber harvest revenues to schools and other local services cleared the House Natural Resources Committee.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., is the sponsor of HR818, which sets priorities to reduce fuels in forests in order to reduce the risk of fire. Tipton’s bill directs the Forest Service to prioritize hazardous fuels reduction projects proposed by governors, affected counties and tribes.

The other bill, HR1526, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., addresses the shortfall in county revenue for schools and critical services caused by lack of timber harvest. It requires the Forest Service to produce at least half of the sustainable annual yield of timber required under law since 1908 and to share 25 percent of those receipts with rural counties.

To expedite locally based healthy forest projects, the Hastings-Tipton package builds on the positive streamlining procedures implemented under the bipartisan Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003. “Our package would allow greater state and local involvement in wildfire prevention on federal lands in order to expedite hazardous fuels reduction projects and reduce litigation,” Tipton said. In 2012, 9.3 million acres burned, while only about 200,000 acres of timber were harvested. Several of the most destructive fires were in Colorado.

This year, fires again struck the state, including the Black Forest and Royal Gorge fires and numerous other blazes in the Arkansas and Rio Grande watersheds. “Time is of the essence and we cannot afford to wait for more fires and more devastation before Congress acts,” Tipton said.

From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

The bill also sets mandates for the Forest Service to produce higher timber harvests and to share its revenues with rural school districts.

Tipton said his bill will help prevent forest fires, bring back rural jobs and funnel more timber royalty money to schools.

“We have fallen short of the benefits that can be provided to our classrooms, our communities and the ecosystem, and we should return to active forest management,” Tipton said.

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