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Boost Manufacturing Jobs Through Better Forest Management

Boost Manufacturing Jobs Through Better Forest Management

Healthy Forests – Healthy Communities 
By Nick Smith

President Donald Trump has consistently pledged to create more American jobs by promoting domestic manufacturing and reforming federal regulations.  Forest products represent a major portion of the nation’s manufacturing base.  By putting more Americans back to work on our federally-owned forests, the president can restore economic opportunity while protecting public lands for the future.
The president is off to a good start by appointing Ryan Zinke and Sonny Perdue to lead the departments of Interior and Agriculture, respectively.  Both recognize the needs of our rural forested communities and their deep connection to federal forest lands.  Both recognize we can responsibly utilize our natural resources while upholding important conservation values.
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Our rural communities and our federal forests have suffered from years of neglect. Due in part to the lack of active management activities such as timber harvest and thinning, more than 80,000,000 acres of America’s forests are threatened by catastrophic wildfire, insects and disease. Populations of vulnerable wildlife species such as the spotted owl continue to decline despite heavy-handed regulations and massive land set asides.  Other wildlife species are suffering due to the lack of suitable mixed and young forest habitat, which can be addressed through active forest management.
Communities adjacent to federal forests have endured decades of high unemployment, poverty and declining school enrollments.  Rural counties that depend on timber-related revenue and economic activity are being forced to cut vital public services.  And the chronic underfunding of capital improvement and maintenance in the National Forest System has threatened public safety and access into, and within, these federal lands.
Our federal forest lands can be actively managed for social, economic and environmental benefits, but for too long our federal land managers have been hamstrung by well-intended yet counterproductive federal regulations. Timber harvests and forest restoration projects are often tied up by expensive and time-consuming regulations by activist groups. The United States may be the only country in the world that loses money managing its forest resources, as the American taxpayers spends one dollar for every 17 cents federal forests generate in revenue.  It doesn’t have to be this way.
There are a few steps the Trump administration and Congress can take to improve the management of our federal forests, while keeping our public lands healthy, productive and accessible. They can start by giving the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management the policy tools, legal tools and resources to actively manage more of our forest lands.  They can end the so-called budgetary gimmick of “fire borrowing” that forces agencies to raid non-fire accounts to pay for growing wildfire suppression costs. But just as importantly, the administration and Congress should modernize National Environmental Policy Act and other federal laws and regulations to make land management more efficient and to increase the pace and scale of forest projects.
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Nick Smith is executive director of Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities, a non-profit, non-partisan grassroots coalition advocating active, multiple-use management of America’s federally owned forests.
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The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of Wallowa Valley Online


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