U.S. Senate – U.S. Senator Steve Daines today (11/17/17) introduced the “Protect Collaboration for Healthier Forests Act” (S. 2160) to accelerate badly needed and locally supported forest management projects that will improve the health of National Forests and get loggers back to work.
Daines’ bill establishes a pilot arbitration program authorizing the U.S. Forest Service to use binding arbitration in Region 1 (Montana, parts of Idaho, North Dakota) as an alternative dispute resolution process for certain forest restoration projects. Litigation against forest management projects frequently take many years to resolve. Pilot arbitration authority would bring swifter resolution to disputed projects. In doing so, hazardous fuels reduction projects developed through a collaborative process that are allowed to go forward will be implemented more quickly.
“Fringe litigators — radical environmental extremists — sue to stop commonsense collaborative forest management projects that would reduce the risk of wildfire,” Daines stated. “We need to provide common sense relief to the Forest Service to get projects off the ground and out of the courtroom. We need to manage our forests, before our forests manage us.”
According to the Forest Service, there are 19 projects in Region 1 that are currently impacted by litigation. While other regions face frequent litigation, Region 1 experiences litigation far more than any other region.
- Of the 19 Region 1 projects currently impacted by litigation, 12 were developed through a collaborative process.
- Fifteen of the 19 projects are in Montana. Ten of those were developed through a collaborative process.
- Of the 19 projects, 17 include acres that are inside the wildland urban interface, which is defined as the areas where communities are in close proximity to forests that are at risk of wildfire. All 15 of the MT projects impacted by litigation include WUI acres.
The legislation was cosponsored by Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Jim Risch (R-ID).