As Congress adjourns for the year it is timely to take stock of where things stand on the forest roads provision in the Farm Bill. Recall that the House added the provision to its Farm Bill by voice vote on the floor with no opposition—a testament to the broad bipartisan support it enjoys. Following House passage of the Farm Bill the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee again reported the bill out of committee without opposition.
The bill now enjoys bipartisan support from more than 100 members of Congress in 31 states. The House and Senate sponsors have done an excellent job establishing their legislation as a mainstream approach to preserve the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) successful policy of regulating forest roads as nonpoint sources under the Clean Water Act through state-adopted best management practices. In the Senate a bipartisan group of 21 Senators have sent a letter to the Senate Agriculture Committee urging them to adopt the roads provision in the House bill, complementing a similar letter from 54 Representatives to the House Conferees on the Farm Bill.
When Congress returns in January the first order of business for the Farm Bill conferees will be to complete work on their bill. Some of the issues will be complex. However, the good news for the conferees is that the forest roads provision is not among them. The hard work on this provision has been done, and all the Senate conferees need to do at this point is to say "yes" to the House language. To draw a football analogy, the ball is near the goal line and the crowd is cheering for a score. It’s time to get the ball into the end zone. Doing so would be a victory for forest landowners, for Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and for an EPA program that has been a Clean Water Act success story for 37 years.
NAFO is an organization of private forest owners committed to advancing federal policies that promote the economic and environmental benefits of privately-owned forests at the national level.NAFO membership encompasses more than 80 million acres of private forestland in 47 states. Working forests in the U.S. support 2.4 million jobs. To see the full economic impact of America’s working forests, visit http://www.nafoalliance.org/working-forests/jobs-economic-growth.