A bill suggested by county commissioners from Idaho and authored by Congressman Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, has been approved by the House Natural Resources Committee.
Labrador’s Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act permits state and local management of up to 2 percent of federally-owned forests to improve forest health, boost local economies and save taxpayers money.
“I am pleased that the committee supported H.R. 2316, a bill that will help Idahoans and other hard-working Americans,” Labrador said. “I have spent the past several years working with county commissioners and others who are closest to the land to craft legislation that finally provides them the opportunity to manage the lands they love.
“The Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act provides an alternative to failing federal management. States will be able to show that they can manage our national forests in a manner that protects access and creates healthy forests. The bill also empowers local communities to take charge of their future and prove that those closest to the ground do a better job than distant bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.”
H.R. 2316 does not transfer ownership to the states, restrict public access or ignore environmental protections, as some critics have alleged.
Labrador began work on the bill in 2011, after commissioners from five rural Idaho counties proposed a plan to allow state and local management. The Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act was first introduced in 2012; in 2013, the bill passed the Houseon a bipartisan vote.
H.R. 2316 would create "community forest demonstration areas" of at least 200,000 acres, not exceeding a total of 4 million acres of the 193 million acres in the National Forest System. Governors would appoint an Advisory Committee to oversee management under state forest practices laws. The committee must include representatives from local government, recreational users, the forest products industry and grazing or other permit holders.
The bill protects tribal rights, hunting and fishing and other recreational uses. National parks and monuments and federally designated wilderness areas cannot be included in a demonstration area. The Forest Service would continue to own the land, receive a portion of revenues and retain responsibility for firefighting.