Western Landowners Statement on Build Back Better Act
In response to the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and ongoing deliberations of the conservation and forestry provisions of the Build Back Better Act, Western Landowners Alliance executive director Lesli Allison issued the following statement:
Passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act represents a long due investment in both the built and natural infrastructure that sustain our nation. But now more than ever we need to invest proactively in working landscapes for the benefit and prosperity of future generations.
In landscapes across the West, forests are dying and burning up at an unprecedented scale–millions upon millions of acres. This is impacting our water supplies, our communities, wildlife, local and regional economies, food security, and much more. Smoke-filled skies, harmful to public health, the climate and even migrating birds, have become the norm.
Restoring forest health across both public and private lands is among the highest priorities for Western landowners. As a society, we have to reinvest in the resources that sustain us and we have neglected this investment for too long. We have a choice to make. We can make a smart, proactive investment up front to restore forest health or we can pay the vastly higher costs of fire suppression, disaster recovery, public health consequences and economic fallout.
In addition to improving the ecological health and wildfire safety of America’s forests, the Build Back Better Act’s forestry provisions will support high-quality jobs and sustainable industries in rural communities and improve access to the benefits of forests for all Americans.
Beyond forest health and resilience, if we want a secure, healthy and affordable food supply, clean water, wildlife habitat and the many other essential values working lands provide, we need to do a better job of partnering and investing with farmers and ranchers. Farm Bill conservation programs remain critically oversubscribed in the face of mounting challenges to producers’ bottom line and our ecosystems. The Build Back Better Act’s agriculture conservation provisions are designed to help producers keep these lands intact, healthy and productive for the benefit of us all. With a national conversation on the future of conservation as the backdrop, Congress should act swiftly to enact the Build Back Better Act.
The Build Back Better Act’s investment in forest and working land health represents:
- Critical wildfire safety in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) and rural communities
- Locally-led forest restoration and resilience projects in partnership withTribes, States, local governments, special districts, and nonprofits
- Preserving landowners’ forest legacy, through the USDA’s Forest Legacy Program
- Rural economic opportunity, through support for forest products industries, collaborative forest management and good green jobs in forest restoration and resilience
- Support for working lands stewardship through the Conservation Stewardship Program
- Investments in local, partnership-driven conservation opportunities, through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program
- More conservation and restoration work on the ground, thanks to increased funding for the Environmental Quality Incentive Program and NRCS conservation technical assistance
- Climate mitigation and adaptation, by addressing our forest health crisis. Reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires, which release far more CO2e than lower intensity burns and reduce forests carbon storage capacity for decades, supports carbon storage while making forest lands more resilient to warming temperatures.
These are among the most cost-effective investments we could make, not only in ecological health of western lands, but also in the wellbeing and livelihoods of Westerners.
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