Wyden-Merkley press forest thinning in jobs bill

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Natural Resource News Note:
Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley issued a letter to fellow senators asking that forest thinning be put into a job stimulus bill that is expected to be created early this year.  It is being advocated as a way to help restore rural communities and our natural resources.  Here is a sample of the letter:

“As you develop legislation to spur job creation, we urge you to include funding for forest thinning and restoration projects on our nation’s public lands.  These activities create immediate, on-the-ground work in rural communities which have been particularly harmed by the downturn in the economy.  This work is also critical for protecting our forests from uncharacteristic catastrophic wildfires, disease and insect infestations.

The USDA Forest Service and the Department of Interior have suffered significant budget constraints, with non-fire related program budgets that have been flat or declining for more than a decade and ever-increasing wildfire suppression costs.   As a result, there is an immense need and opportunity to provide additional funding to help restore the health of our nation’s forests.  Many of those forests are also located in rural counties where the unemployment rate has grown disproportionately, in some areas exceeding 20 percent.

…Many forest thinning and restoration projects have already cleared the necessary environmental review and could provide an immediate boost to their sector.  For example, it has been estimated that for every one million board feet of thinning harvest over 11 jobs are generated with an average wage of over $40,000.    In addition to creating and saving logging and milling jobs, restoration activities can also create additional jobs in the forest.  It has been estimated that for every million dollars spent on restoration, between 16-30 Americans are put back to work.   These are good paying jobs in rural areas that cannot be exported…”