What is in the Stimulus Bill for Timber

By Tom Partin,
American Forest Research Council,

Both Houses of Congress passed the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The House vote was 246-183 and the Senate vote was 60-38. In the House, no Republicans voted for the bill, while Republican Senators Olympia Snow (ME), Susan Collins (ME) and Arlen Specter (PA) voted for the bill helping to secure the 60 votes needed for passage.

Proponents of the Act are touting the legislation’s ability to create jobs and promote economic recovery, especially for those most impacted by the recession. The Administration has stated that they expect the program to retain or create over 3.5 million jobs, in areas such as energy, science, transportation, manufacturing and construction.

Republicans criticized the legislation as little more than wasteful government spending on a litany of government programs unlikely to have a simulative effect on the economy. GOP members unsuccessfully promoted their own proposal heavy on tax cuts for individuals and businesses.

The House and Senate versions differed in many ways, including dollar amounts for the Forest Service and BLM. The final numbers for those agencies include:

Forest Service

The Forest Service will receive $1.15 billion ($650 million for construction on public lands and $500 million for reducing wildfire threats on federal and non-federal land). The $650 million is to be used for road maintenance and decommissioning, trail maintenance and decommissioning, facility improvement and maintenance, abandoned mine remediation, watershed restoration/ecosystem enhancements and the support costs necessary to complete this work.

Of the $500 million earmarked for wildland fire management, $250 million is designated for use on federal lands in projects that reduce hazardous fuels and improve forest health and rehabilitation. The remaining $250 million will be funneled to state and private lands to be used for hazardous fuels reduction, ecosystem improvements and forest health activities. Up to $50 million of this funding can be used for grants to increase wood-to-energy use on all lands.

On February 11, the Washington Office sent a request to all regions asking for a listing of projects which could be quickly implemented to create or maintain jobs. Criteria for those projects include:.

Create or maintain jobs in economically distressed areas.. Create or retain sustainable jobs..

Create or retain jobs that help sustain the health diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands..

Leverage other resources to create more jobs..

Create jobs that invest in or leverage the investments of partners, in wood-to-energy-or biomass projects..

Create jobs that contribute to sustainable operations. The regions were to have their lists completed and returned by February 23. AFRC has met with agency officials in the Washington and Regional offices to underscore the importance of targeting funding at projects likely to improve forest health and generate the materials critically needed to maintain industry infrastructure.

BLM The BLM will receive $125 million for maintenance, rehabilitation, and restoration of facilities, property, trails, and lands for remediation of abandoned mines and wells. Also included is $180 million for reconstruction, decommissioning and repair of roads, bridges, trails, property and facilities and energy retrofits.

Also included is $15 million for hazardous fuels reduction activities.

/Tom Partin

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