Clean | Green | Sustainable

New Report Questions Key Aspects of “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act”

Posted by Matthew Koehler on September 22, 2010

A new report from one of the nation’s leading National Forest policy experts – Dr. Martin Nie of the University of Montana’s Bolle Center for People & Forests – provides an in-depth look at some of the key policy issues and concerns associated with so-called “Place-Based Legislation” in general, and Senator Tester’s “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act,” specifically. The report and research was requested by the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service.

Here’s a snip from the report’s conclusion (emphasis added):

…[T]here are significant problems to the place-based legislative approach to national forest management. To begin with, the historical record of place-based forest law does not lend confidence to the approach in principle. By most accounts, cases like the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Act have engendered more conflict and problems than the legislation has resolved. This is mostly because these site-specific laws must somehow be paid for and then reconciled with the cumulative body of environmental laws that govern the national forests.

These problems are not insurmountable, but Congress and the USFS should oppose forest-specific legislation until a number of more fundamental and systematic concerns are addressed. Most important are the questions of how these laws would fit into the preexisting statutory/planning framework and how they would be financed.

If replicated more broadly, place-based legislation would disunify the National Forest System and create a number of problematic precedents. Chief among these are legislated timber treatment mandates that would set the stage for future Congressional abuse. If enacted into law, these mandates would also have the unintended consequence of jeopardizing fragile agreements and negotiations going on elsewhere; as some timber interests would certainly use this precedent as new leverage in their bargaining positions. As one Congressional Staffer involved in a place-based negotiation says, if Senator Tester’s timber supply mandate gets through the gate, then he expects a similar sort of demand being made by the timber interests at his table.

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