Senate committee moves forest health bill forward
Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet commended the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today for passing an amended version of Senator John Barrasso’s (R-WY) Good Neighbor Forestry Act. The amended bill is very similar to an amendment Bennet filed last month during the Senate Agriculture Committee’s markup of the Farm Bill.
Bennet’s amendment would have extended the Good Neighbor authority to all states, while Barrasso’s bill relegates the authority only to states west of the 100th Meridian.
The Good Neighbor Authority allows state and federal authorities to work together on fire mitigation efforts, even when project areas cross ownership boundaries. Currently the program exists only in Colorado and Utah. In all other states, federal and state authorities manage their land separately.
“When we toured the aftermath of the Galena Fire earlier this year, foresters explained that our state’s Good Neighbor Policy is improving collaborative efforts and is an important tool to maintain healthy forests and increase resiliency to wildfires,” Bennet said. “In Colorado we are facing increasingly longer and more destructive wildfire seasons, and this common sense bill will keep the program running and benefit other western states confronting this challenge. I’m pleased the committee moved it forward and hope the full Senate will pass it quickly.”
The Good Neighbor Forestry Act, advancing out of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee yesterday, allows the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Interior to enter into cooperative agreements with state foresters. These agreements would allow the federal government to work with the state foresters to complete forest health projects, protect watersheds, and perform wildfire mitigation efforts like treating infected trees and reducing hazardous fuels. These partnerships provide cohesion and efficiency and promote the overall health of both state and federal lands.