Washington, D.C. – The House Subcommittee on Federal Lands convened to review forestry legislation introduced by Alaska Congressman Don Young – H.R. 3650, the State National Forest Management Act. The bill represents a longstanding effort to reform the federal government’s broken system of forestry management in a manner that empowers local communities, builds resilient forests and streamlines burdensome management practices.
“What should be a straightforward and balanced process – given the size of the Tongass – the Federal Government has time and time again failed,” Congressman Don Young testified before the Subcommittee. “In Alaska, we have a proven record of success in managing millions of acres of state parks and forests. H.R. 3650 will give states an opportunity to show they are in fact the best stewards of our lands. My bill works to address the major failures of our federal land management agencies, while giving our state’s an opportunity to do better. This proposal works to end the constant fighting between our forestry communities and the federal government by allowing us to resolve our differences at home.”
H.R. 3650, introduced on September 29, 2015, would authorize states to select and acquire certain National Forest system lands, up to 2 million acres, to be managed and operated by the state for timber production and other purposes under the law.
- Portions of land conveyed to a state shall be administered and managed primarily for timber production.
- In terms of consideration, states would be given the option to buy the acres for fair market value, exchange lands, forego pending statehood selections, or any combination – determined through the passage of state law.
The case for change in Alaska, as described by Congressman Young:
- The Tongass is 17 million acres, but through a series of Congressional withdrawals, Wilderness designations and administrative policy changes, the suited timber base available for management has declined to a mere 672 thousand acres – or 4%.
- The State of Alaska manages only a tiny fraction of forest land in Southeast, about 50 thousand acres in the Southeast State Forest.
- The Tongass National Forest has sold only about 12% of its 267 million board feet annual allowable cut. The State has sold about 65% of the 12.1 million board feet annual allowable cut.
- A state timber sale takes about 18 months to plan and offer, as opposed to 5 years for the USFS, largely due to NEPA.
- USDA estimates that over 90 statues govern management of the Forest Service, with conflicting mandates that expose agencies to litigation.