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Monday, June 12, 2017

Bill to Enhance Forest Management in ANF Earns Committee Approval, Lawmakers Say

The House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee unanimously approved legislation designed to enhance forest management and maximize the benefits of the Allegheny National Forest (ANF), lawmakers representing the region announced today.

House Bill 1494 authorizes the Commonwealth to enter into a Good Neighbor Agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow the state to help manage the forest through timber harvesting, promoting forest regeneration, and restoring or improving habitats. The bill is jointly sponsored by Reps. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren/Crawford/Forest), Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter), Matt Gabler (R-Clearfield/Elk) and Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion/Armstrong/Forest).

“The ANF is a valuable asset to our region, and I look forward to having the state play a greater role in the management of the forest,” Rapp said. “We all stand to benefit by working together to maximize the opportunities it offers.”

Causer, who serves as chairman of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, agreed. “Many of our communities rely on the financial support that comes from harvesting timber on the ANF, as well as the jobs the industry supports. That’s why it is important to properly manage these resources to ensure the long-term health and productivity of the forest.”

Good Neighbor Agreements were first used in Colorado and Utah and were authorized nationwide as part of the 2014 Farm Bill. Recognizing the potential benefits offered by such agreements, the members of the Governor’s Green Ribbon Task Force on Forest Products, Conservation and Jobs listed the agreement among its top recommendations.

“The task force spent eight months looking at ways to grow more good jobs in the forest products industry while also working to conserve and improve our forests,” Gabler said. “This recommendation was right on the mark, and I am happy to see the bill advancing in the House.”

Oberlander added, “Proper forest management is important from both economic and environmental standpoints. Entering into an agreement like this is a win-win for the Commonwealth and our communities.”

The ANF is approximately 517,000 acres in size and includes land in Elk, Forest, McKean and Warren counties.

House Bill 1494 now goes to the full House for consideration.

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