July 22, 2009

Crapo, Murray And Cantwell Introduce Bill To Protect Forest Land From Development While Saving Jobs

Bill authorizes Forest Conservation Bonds as common sense way to bring conservation and timber communities together to protect forest land from development

(Washington, D.C.) -U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Patty Murray (D-Washington) and Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) introduced legislation today that would protect private forestland from development by enabling non-profit conservation organizations to use bonds to purchase forest lands. Hailed by environmentalists and private landowners as a common sense solution, the Community Forestry Conservation Act of 2009, would allow communities to issue bonds on behalf of private non-profit organizations. These organizations could then work with private landowners to purchase tracts of forest and farmland using those bonds. This would prevent development, while protecting private property rights, and the jobs and businesses that are tied to the land.

"This legislation holds great potential for forest and habitat conservation, as well as job creation," said Crapo. "It provides a federal financial incentive to bring stakeholders together to manage and sustain working forests into the future for the good of the surrounding communities. In these tough economic times, it's important for Congress to use all the tools available to help sustain communities as well as the environment."

"This bill gives communities a new tool to protect forest land without jeopardizing businesses, jobs, and the rights of landowners," said Murray. "Forest Conservation Bonds will bring the conservation and timber communities together to do what's right for at-risk forest land and the workers that depend on it."

"People want to conserve working forests and they continue to demand that forest lands be managed in ways that increase long-term public benefit," said Cantwell. "We can promote long-term conservation without sacrificing jobs and these Forest Conservation Bonds are an essential financial tool that will help us do just that. As a member of the Senate Finance, I will work with my colleagues to authorize these bonds so we can realize the environmental benefits of conserving our working forest lands."

Under the proposed bill, Congress would allow non-profit organizations to use funds from municipal revenue bond sales to purchase working forest and keep them working. This would allow the organizations to buy lands that are at high risk of development. The bonds would be paid off with proceeds from environmentally sensitive timber harvesting techniques.

The bill introduced today is estimated to conserve 2. 2 million acres of forest land and preserve over 13,000 direct and indirect jobs.

The bill is supported by the Cascade Land Conservancy, US Forest Capital, Washington Forest Law Center, and the Washington Forest Protection Association.