James E. Risch

07/27/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/27/2021 18:17

Idaho Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Manage Forests, Reduce Wildfire Risk

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) introduced the Treating Tribes and Counties as Good Neighbors Act, with Rep. Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho) introducing the House companion bill.

The legislation will extend full partnership eligibility for the Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) program - which facilitates federal forest restoration and management projects - to Tribes and Counties.

'The 2021 wildfire season underscores the need to use every tool in the toolbox to mitigate wildfire risk. The GNA program is just such a tool. Congress made the decision to extend GNA to Tribes and Counties in 2018, and we owe it to them to do so correctly,' said Risch. 'This legislation gives all GNA partners the greatest ability to collaborate on forest management projects and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires across the West.'

'Tribes and Counties in Idaho have the authority to decrease their reliance on federal land managers and oversee Idaho's forests to reduce wildfire risk, but their current financial resources are lacking because they cannot retain receipts like the States. This financial hurdle is addressed by the 'Treating Tribes and Counties as Good Neighbors Act,' allowing Tribes and Counties to fully utilize the Good Neighbor Authority, ensuring new cooperative management projects throughout Idaho,' said Fulcher.

Supporters of the Treating Tribes and Counties as Good Neighbors Act include Governor of Idaho Brad Little, the Idaho Forest Group, the National Association of Counties, the Intertribal Timber Council, the National Association of State Foresters, and the National Congress of American Indians.

Statements of Support:

'Idaho has demonstrated true leadership in the management of federal lands in our state. The level of collaboration across so many diverse interests and levels of government is a testament of our commitment to getting more people to work in our forests, reducing the risk of fire, and improving the overall health of our lands for future generations of Idahoans to use and enjoy. I want to thank Senator Risch and Congressman Fulcher for introducing this important bill to clarify the expenditure of Good Neighbor Authority revenues. Working together, we have created a blueprint for other states to follow.' - Governor of Idaho Brad Little

'Idaho Forest Group supports and appreciates the leadership of Senator Risch and Congressman Fulcher in clarifying how and where Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) revenues can be expended. This bill will clarify that spending authority, while also enabling the expenditure of GNA receipts on all authorized activities and lands identified within supplemental project agreements that are in need of land management.' - Idaho Forest Group

'Good Neighbor Agreements strengthen the partnership with federal land management agencies and state, tribal and county governments. Standardizing the use of GNA funds will help counties support forest management projects and facilitate better land management decisions based on local impacts and needs. We applaud Senator Risch and Congressman Fulcher for introducing the Treating Tribes and Counties as Good Neighbors Act and urge Congress to swiftly pass this legislation.' - Mathew Chase, Executive Director, National Association of Counties

'GNA allows the USDA Forest Service to enter into agreements with state forestry agencies to implement critically important management work that benefits national forests that the Forest Service is unable to do alone. It is simply good government for forest management to be undertaken in the most timely and cost-efficient manner, and GNA helps us do that. This legislation would broaden Good Neighbor Authority for tribes and counties, thereby enhancing cross-boundary forest management capacity; we are proud to endorse it.' - Greg Josten, President, National Association of State Foresters

'The Treating Tribes and Counties as Good Neighbors Act would remedy this oversight and ensure that Tribal Nations and counties are eligible to retain receipts for GNA projects. This technical fix would enable these governments to perform critical watershed restoration and forest management projects that will aid the Forest Service in the promotion of healthy forests on national forest system lands.' - Dante Desiderio, CEO, National Congress of American Indians

Background:

The Good Neighbor Authority program has allowed the U.S. Forest Service to partner with states on federal forest restoration and management projects to improve wildlife habitats, enhance watersheds, and reduce wildfire risks. In the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress amended GNA to make Tribes and Counties eligible to enter into Good Neighbor Agreements. However, Tribes and Counties were not afforded the same authority as states to retain GNA project receipts to reinvest in conservation, reducing a significant incentive to partner on forest management projects.

Additionally, the 2018 Farm Bill removed the ability for restoration services to take place off of federal lands. This means adjacent state, tribal, county, and other land that is essential to the health and productivity of National Forests can no longer be restored as comprehensive landscapes.

The Treating Tribes and Counties as Good Neighbors Act provides Tribes and Counties with the ability to reinvest receipts in authorized restoration and enables all GNA partners to perform restoration not just on federal lands, but also on lands approved under the project's Good Neighbor Agreement.

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