by Jeffrey Hunt
Both the House and the Senate bill make marginal changes to the Forestry section of the Farm Bill. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Title VIII in the House and Senate bills is how little in common the two bills have – the bills deal with different programs and matters. However, all changes are tweaking around the edge. For this reason, the CBO projects that both the House and Senate bills have no net change in spending.
One major part of the House bill and minor part of the Senate bill is the granting of categorical exclusions to certain practices, ranging from instances when time is sensitive like responding to natural disasters to those that benefit wider society, like improvements to recreation areas. By far the most common exclusion is the ability to forego an environmental impact review.
There are several new programs across both bills, including a forest landscape restoration project found in both the Senate and House bills. This project establishes a competitive proposal-based grant program is meant to bring public and private resources together to promote restoration across national forests, especially pertaining to preventing wildfires, enhancing natural habitats, and improving water quality. The other notable addition to new programs found in both bills is a program encouraging the use of innovative wood products in the construction of new buildings, although this proposal is considerably more fleshed out in the House bill than the Senate bill.
There is little in either the House or Senate bill that would be of particular interest to someone from Maryland, which is of little surprise as Maryland is not home to any National Forests. The conclusion of the Senate bill adds/subtracts territory from specific forests, most of which are clustered in the southeast region of the country. The closest forest to Maryland is the George Washington National Forest.