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In May Capital Hill lawmakers passed historic forestry legislation and AMERICAN FORESTS helped local partners voice their perspectives of the national level.

With bipartisan support, the House of Representatives approved 315-102 the Conservation and Reinvestment Act or CARA (H.R. 701), which significantly increases funding for acquisition of environmentally important lands and various conservation programs. The bill includes $100 million for three Agriculture Department programs: Formland Protection, Forest Legacy, and Urban and Community Foresty, the latter two administered by the Forest Service.

Under CARA, $2.85 billion of about $4 billing annually from Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas revenues would go into a permanent annual fund for acquisition and conservation programs. The bill allots $1 billion for impact assistance and coastal conservation for 35 coastal states and territories and $900 million to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, half for federal land acquisition and half for matching grants to states. CARA also would dedicate annual funding to wildlife conservation and restoration, urban park and recreation recovery, historic preservation, federal and Indian lands restoration, conservation easements and species recovery, and payment-in-lieu-of-taxes and refuge revenue sharing.

Since fall 1999 AMERICAN FORESTS has urged Congress to include support for three Forest Service programs in CARA: Urban and Community Forestry, Forest Legacy, and Economic Action Programs. These programs would complement land acquisition by building community capacity for stewardship--for restoration and maintenance one the land has been acquired.

The bill now goes to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where Chairman Frank Murkawski (R.Alaska) has scheduled action for mid-June. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D.N.M.), the committee's ranking minority member, has introduced the "Conservation and Stewardship Act" (S. 2181) with $50 million for each of three Forest Service stewardship programs. We hope nipartisan support will emerge.

In other news, AMERICAN FORESTS helped community partners participate in a May oversight hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Forests and Public Land Management. The hearing addressed Forest Service efforts to implement 28 stewardship contracting pilot projects.

Two practitioner panels described local efforts to develop stewardship projects focused on integrating the health of the land and the well-being of rural communities. They showed how communities are using innovative contracting tools and technologies to build capacity and sustainable market-based approaches.

AMERICAN FORESTS testified on a national interest panel urging Congress to continue funding and monitoring stewardship pilots. We see stewardship contracting as essential to ecosystem management because it focuses on desired conditions on the land and quality performance by contractors, and it promotes community capacity, a skilled ecosystem workforce, and a restoration economy.

Finally, the Forest Service released its droft environment impact statement and proposed rule on future management of roadless areas in national forests. The proposal would prohibit road construction and reconstruction on 43 million acres of inventoried roadless areas greater than 5,000 acres. Also, it would establish procedures for local decisionmakers to consider additional protection or management of these inventoried roadless areas. The statement also would postpone a decision about roadless areas in Alaska's Tongass National Forest until 2004, when the forest's next planning process begins.

The proposal responds to some of our questions, including its emphasis on establishing procedures for local involvement through the planning process. We will look closely at the proposal, consider how it fits with our ecosystem restoration and maintenance agenda, and prepare comments for the agency's July 17 deadline.
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Author:Gray, Gerry
Publication:American Forests
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2000

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