(Washington, DC) – Congressman Doug LaMalfa issued the following statement after he, Kim Schrier (D-WA), Matt Rosendale (R-MT), and Joe Neguse (D-CO), introduced the National Forest Restoration and Remediation Act. This bill would allow the Forest Service to retain the interest earned on settlement funds, as other Federal agencies can, in order to supplement restoration efforts.
Rep. LaMalfa said, “This common-sense bill will allow the U.S. Forest Service to use the additional interest they gather to continue restoration work. This is an authority that other agencies like the Department of the Interior already have. As massive fires burn across California and the West, the need for restoration dollars will unfortunately be high. I will continue to work to ensure that the Forest Service has the authorities and tools they need to properly manage our forests.”
“The Forest Service provides many important environmental services in Washington state, including mitigating wildfires and improving forest health,” said Rep. Schrier. “As we confront another potentially devastating wildfire season, it’s important that we provide the Forest Service with sufficient resources to protect our public lands. I’m proud to introduce this bill with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure the Forest Service can retain more funds to protect and remediate forests after wildfires and other damaging actions.”
“The National Forest Restoration and Remediation Act is a common-sense approach to allow the Forest Service to utilize accumulated interest on settlement agreements to protect and preserve damaged lands, without additional cost to taxpayers. Restoration projects take years, sometimes decades to complete. The inability to access interest earnings results in budget shortfalls and delays in restoration efforts. This needs to change. I’m very pleased to join with Congresswoman Schrier to lead this bipartisan effort,” Rep. Rosendale said.
“As Chair of the Forests Subcommittee in Congress, I’ve noted time and time again how critical it is that we increase funding for the Forest Service so that our local communities in Colorado and across the West are adequately equipped to restore our lands and forests and battle record-setting wildfires. From Breckenridge to Idaho Springs, Estes Park to Granby, communities across my district see increased need for forest maintenance and restoration, and without proper federal funding they are often left having to pick up the tab to complete necessary work in our National Forests and on our public lands, ” said Rep. Joe Neguse, Chair of the U.S. Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. “The National Forest Restoration and Remediation Act, which I am proud to help introduce alongside my colleagues today, is a common-sense measure that will help the Forest Service retain more funds to protect and restore our lands, and support our Western communities.”
The National Forest Restoration and Remediation Act would allow the Forest Service to retain interest on funds that they have in interest-bearing accounts that originally came from individuals or organizations that had to pay for negligent actions on public lands that caused damage. This would in no way mean that individuals or organizations would have to pay higher penalties, it would simply mean that the USFS could put the money in an interest-bearing account and use the interest on restoration activities. Currently, the USFS must transfer interest they collect to the General Treasury account.
USDA’s Office of the Inspector General published a report on Forest Service Use of Settlement Funds, which recommended a legislative change to allow the Forest Service to collect interest on these accounts much like the Department of the Interior and EPA can. Without the ability to collect interest on these accounts, the value of settlement funds diminishes over time and the FS can face long-term budget shortfalls for restoration activities.
Congressman Doug LaMalfa is a lifelong farmer representing California’s First Congressional District, including Butte, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou and Tehama Counties.