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Gianforte Secures Forest Management Reforms, Committed to Resolving Remaining Issues

March 21, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte released the following statement after securing forest management reforms in the Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus package.

Gianforte pressed leaders of the House Appropriations Committee to include “active management, litigation reform, and a fix to fire-borrowing” in the omnibus spending bill.

“While the reforms in the omnibus are a step in the right direction, they only begin to address the issue of devastating wildfires,” Gianforte said. “There’s more to do to protect our communities and livelihoods from catastrophic wildfires, including ending the practice of frivolous lawsuits from environmental extremist groups that tie up critical projects and threaten our way of life.”

Gianforte sponsored the Resilient Federal Forests Act to address the growing economic and environmental threats of severe wildfires aggravated by inadequate forest management. The legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2017, and has been held up in the Senate for nearly five months.

“Since last fire season, I’ve worked to get us managing our forests again and prevent catastrophic wildfires like the ones that burned more than 1.2 million acres in Montana last year,” Gianforte said. “Unfortunately, Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats have held up the legislation I sponsored to address severe wildfires in Montana and reform how we manage our forests.”

Background:

In March 2018, Gianforte urged leaders on the House Appropriations Committee to include in the omnibus spending bill measures to reform how federal forests are managed.

Also in March, Gianforte and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke addressed the need for forest management reform, specifically the Resilient Federal Forests Act, at a hearing in the House Committee on Natural Resources.

In November 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Resilient Federal Forests Act, a measure which Gianforte sponsored that addresses the growing economic and environmental threats of catastrophic wildfires.

In October 2017, Gianforte and Congressman Bruce Westerman (R, Ark.), a trained forester, met with Montanans impacted by severe wildfires and a lack of meaningful forest management.

Earlier in October, Gianforte secured $576.5 million for wildfire recovery and suppression in a natural disaster aid bill.

On September 27, 2017, Gianforte welcomed Ravalli County Commissioner Greg Chilcott to a congressional hearing to advocate for forest management reform.

On September 26, 2017, Gianforte called for better forest management on the House floor. The speech followed his Forest Jobs Tour in September.

On September 7, 2017, Gianforte focused Washington’s attention on Montana’s wildfires. Pointing to an image of a wildfire approaching Lolo, Gianforte said, “I hope this image and the others from back home will make my colleagues more aware of the fires’ devastation and the need for relief in the Treasure State.”

In July 2017, Gianforte visited the July Fire in Zortman, the first in what would be tours of five fire sites, including the Lodgepole Complex fires, the Bruner Mountain fire, the Park Creek fire, and the Lolo Peak fire.

Statements of Support for Westerman and Gianforte’s Resilient Federal Forests Act:

David Allen, President & CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation: “The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation stands in support of the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017. This comprehensive legislation would expedite forest management activities on public lands, discourage litigation that has needlessly stopped necessary forest management projects and put an end to the practice of borrowing from agency budgets to pay for wildfire suppression. We recognize Congressman Westerman for taking the lead on this important issue and Congressman Gianforte for signing on as a cosponsor and for bringing sportsmen and industry folks together to talk about the bill. Active forest management, including well-planned logging, prescribed burning, weed treatments and grazing improves forest health, creates landscape diversity, and improves forage for elk and other wildlife.”

Ravalli County Commissioner Greg Chilcott: “Ravalli County and the Montana Coalition of Forest Counties thank Congressmen Westerman and Gianforte for their leadership and support congressional efforts to provide our professional land managers the opportunity get back to actively managing our public lands. The process has been brought to a halt by delays caused by endless analysis, litigation and funding shortfalls created by fire suppression costs. The Resilient Federal Forests Acts of 2017 provides the boots on the ground necessary to enhance forest health, improve wildlife habitat, increase forest revenues, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and provide for the health and safety of the citizens living in our communities.”

Tony Colter, vice president of the board and plant manager at Sun Mountain Lumber: “Sun Mountain employs 175 right now in logging and the mill. If we had access to more logs, we would like to get back to two shifts which would employ another 25-30. The Westerman bill is essential to avoid losing even more jobs in our community and across rural Montana.”

Julia Altemus, executive director for the Montana Wood Products Association: “Federal forest reform is important to Montana's timber industry, timber dependent communities and our tourism economy. We appreciate Congressman Gianforte and Congressman Westerman taking the time out of their busy schedules to tour a Montana mill and a collaboratively developed timber sale - unfortunately now in the 9th Circuit - and the very timely discussion regarding how we solve complex forestry issues in a bipartisan manner.”

Keith Olson, executive director of the Montana Logging Association: “The Resilient Federal Forests Act is so important for Montana forest jobs and our rural way of life. Lawsuits are killing small-town Montana. This bill’s our lifeline. Greg and Bruce Westerman are champions for common sense forest reform. We need them to push this bill across the finish line.”

Tony Schoonen, chief of staff for the Boone and Crockett Club: “A confluence of factors is driving record-setting wildfire seasons, including hotter and drier conditions, longer duration fire seasons, lack of consistent active management of our national forests, litigation and inadequate funding levels for the U.S. Forest Service’s forest health and restoration accounts. The Boone and Crockett Club believes we need to take steps immediately to address these critical issues and appreciate the efforts of Congressman Gianforte and Congressman Westerman to bring Congress together in the coming weeks to adopt the sensible and well-vetted provisions in H.R. 2936 that will enhance the health of our national forests.”

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