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Update on WLA’s federal and state forest policy work

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Nearly 8 million acres across western states have burned in 2017, highlighting yet again the urgent need for lawmakers across the West and in Washington, D.C. to push for smart reforms that would allow for enhanced, active forest management and rational funding mechanisms for U.S. Forest Service-led wildfire fighting efforts. WLA has joined a chorus of western interests in applauding a number of bipartisan proposals designed to address these issues and continues to push for a wildfire funding fix as lawmakers engage in end-of-year dealmaking that could, in theory, be fertile territory for reaching such an agreement.

Forest health is also a core component of WLA’s Farm Bill advocacy. As the House and Senate committees on agriculture begin the process of reauthorizing the Farm Bill before it expires on September 30, 2018, WLA has been appealing directly to lawmakers and staff in D.C. with forest health priorities, including extensions of both Good Neighbor and Stewardship Contracting authorities; strong funding for facilitating treatment of invasive pest-infested forests under the Healthy Forest Restoration Act; and increasing opportunities for private forest management and conservation in USDA’s conservation programming. In two separate 2017 trips to Washington, D.C., WLA met with lawmakers and staff to discuss these forestry issues along with the urgent need to address wildfire funding.

WLA has also been working to address forest health at the state level. In New Mexico, WLA is running a campaign to build support for a property tax proposal that would facilitate management and conservation in forested watersheds by establishing a third property tax category for stewardship activities. The proposal is designed to boost the health of private land holdings by offering landowners and families an alternative to development when agriculture production isn’t a viable option. Legislation backed by WLA to this effect passed the NM Senate in the previous session but was never considered by the NM House. WLA is gearing up for another run at this effort in 2018.

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