Active Management for Healthier Forests

The Challenge: Healthy forests provide many economic and environmental benefits to communities and the planet. Wood products are ubiquitous in the global economy, and forests promote healthier ecosystems by providing food and shelter to a wide range of animals and plants. Importantly, more robust, resilient forests are a natural climate solution. Trees, plants, and greenery purify the air and absorb carbon dioxide. If they aren’t properly managed, however, America’s forests can be an economic, environmental, and public safety liability.

The Opportunity: Active forest management through controlled burns and timber development will reduce the risk communities face from wildfires and will prevent the release of hundreds of millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Establishing defined and legally protected property rights for landowners is essential for economic productivity and environmental stewardship.

The Solutions: To promote healthy forests, reduce wildfire risk, and increase forest restoration, Congress and the administration should:

  • Clarify the language for categorical exclusion applications, which currently take an average of seven months to navigate. 
  • Allow a state environmental review to satisfy all federal requirements of a federal review upon approval from a federal agency.
  • Expand the acreage limit for categorical exclusions so that a prescribed burn can safely manage more acres under one restoration project.
  • Allow prescribed burns to be excluded from state emissions calculations.
  • Narrow the scope of who can file lawsuits, limiting preliminary injunctions and stays to 60 days, and setting a six-month statute of limitation on National Environmental Policy Act challenges.
  • Limit Endangered Species Act consultation to projects with on-the-ground impacts on protected species.
  • Fund and expedite the permit approval for wildfire detection equipment and the use of satellite data.
  • Lift the export ban on unprocessed timber on federal lands.

Key Facts 

  • Forests in the United States sequester about 16 percent of annual domestic carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Fully restoring understocked, productive forestland in the U.S. could increase carbon sequestration by a total of 20 percent per year
  • In 2020, California’s wildfires emitted more carbon dioxide than the entire state’s fossil fuel emissions.
  • A 2021 study found that “invasive species have cost North America $2 billion per year in the early 1960s to over $26 billion per year since 2010.”
  • Tariffs are harming consumers. The National Association of Home Builders has said, “tariffs on Canadian lumber shipments into the United States and production bottlenecks have fueled lumber price volatility which has added more than $18,600 to the price of a new home since last August.” The tariff will drop to 11.64 percent in August 2022. 

Legislation to follow: 

Legislation Bill Number(s) House Sponsor Senate Sponsor House Cosponsor(s) Senate Cosponsor(s)
Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act S.3571 Heinrich (D-NM) Risch (R-ID), Lujan (D-NM), Daines (R-MT), and more
No Timber From Tyrants Act H.R.7437 Westerman (R-AR-4) Thompson (R-PA-15), Wittman (R-VA-1), Lamborn (R-CO-5), and more
Save Our Sequoias Act H.R.8168 McCarthy (R-CA-23) Peters (D-CA-52), Westerman (R-AR-4), Costa (D-CA16), and more
Resilient Federal Forests Act H.R.4614 Westerman (R-AR-4) McCarthy (R-CA-23), Cueller (D-TX-28), Amodei (R-NV-2), and more
The ARCs Act of 2021 S.2836 Manchin (D-WV) Barasso (R-WY), King (I-ME), Marshall (R-KS)
FIRE Act S.3036 and H.R.5010 Garcia (R-CA-25) Rosen (D-NV) Kim (R-CA-39), Brownley (D-CA-26), Chu (D-CA-27) Lummis (R-WY)
The Forest TECH Improvement Act H.R.2500 Moore (R-UT-1) Westerman (R-AR-4), Newhouse (R-WA-4), Simpson (R-ID-2), and more
The Trillion Trees and Natural Carbon Storage Act S.4985 (116th) and H.R.2639 Westerman (R-AR-4) Braun (R-IN) McCarthy (R-CA-23), Schrader (D-OR-5), Amodei (R-NV-2), and more Coons (D-DE), Young (R-IN), King (I-ME)
The Urban Forests Act of 2021 H.R.2477 Malliotakis (R-NY-11) Schrader (D-OR-5), Westerman (R-AR-4), Sanford (D-GA-2)
TREES Act S.1782 and H.R.3522 Matsui (D-CA-6) Booker (D-NJ) Cleaver (D-MO-5), Sarbanes (D-MD-3), McKinley (R-WV-1), and more Capito (R-WV)

Read the full chapter here.

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