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Shaheen, Capito Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Help Granite State Forest and Commercial Building Owners with Sustainability

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) reintroduced the Forest Incentives Program Act with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to help landowners make forest management more affordable and provide them with sustainable options to preserve their land. With financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), private forest owners would be encouraged to employ environmentally-conscious forest management techniques. Additionally, non-residential building owners would be incentivized to use less-energy intensive products, such as wood, for structural building materials.

“New Hampshire’s private forests preserve our natural resources and are a staple of our rural economy,” said Shaheen. “I’m proud to lead this bipartisan legislation to recognize the climate benefits of forests and help landowners and building owners make decisions with an eye toward sustainability. This is a common-sense step to make forest management more affordable, empowering forest owners to invest in their financial security while supporting healthy environments. I’ll continue to work in good faith with Senators across the aisle to stimulate healthy local economies through sustainable forest management.”

“West Virginia is known to be wild and wonderful, in part, due to its vast mountainous forests,” said Capito. “This legislation helps maintain that natural beauty by making environmentally friendly forest conservation more affordable for private landowners, by incentivizing the employment of new techniques to better maintain their forests and reduce our carbon footprint. Conservation efforts such as this are critical for ensuring that our forests remain strong and vibrant for generations to come. I am proud to once again join Senator Shaheen in introducing this legislation, which will help support private forest owners and promote long lasting forest sustainability.”

“We applaud the reintroduction of the Forest Incentives Program Act, which will help private forestland owners keep forests as forest in New Hampshire. Avoiding the permanent conversion of forests into other uses is essential if we want to maintain the multiple environmental and climate benefits they provide. On behalf of the Forest Society, I want to thank Senator Shaheen for taking action to keep forests as forests,” said Jack Savage, President of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

“We deeply appreciate Senator Shaheen’s leadership in sponsoring this important legislation. In the face of our climate crisis, we need to employ a multitude of tools, including this Forest Incentives Program, to help keep forests forested and expand our capacity to store and reduce atmospheric carbon. We look forward to working towards passage of this timely bill,” said John Judge, President and CEO of the Appalachian Mountain Club.

“The New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association is pleased to support this bill as it promotes sustainable forest management and recognizes the benefits of carbon sequestration from healthy forests, and the long-term storage of carbon in forest products such as lumber," said Jasen Stock, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association.

Specifically, the bill directs the USDA to establish an incentive program that allows eligible forest landowners to enter into a long-term contract to adopt conservation practices that have been proven to deliver emissions reductions. The bill also creates financial incentives for commercial building owners to use biological products, such as wood, as structural building materials instead of more energy-intensive materials.

The Forest Incentives Program Act has been endorsed by numerous local and national organizations, including: American Forest Foundation, American Forests, Appalachian Mountain Club, Forest Landowners Association, National Alliance of Forest Owners, National Audubon Society, New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association, Northland Forest Products, Pinchot Institute for Conservation, Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, The Lyme Timber Company and The Trust for Public Land.

Full text of the legislation is available here.

Senator Shaheen has long advocated for America’s forests and initiatives that would survey and repurpose biomass for clean energy initiatives. In the funding bill for fiscal year 2021, Shaheen secured $5 million for the USDA Agriculture’s Community Wood Energy Program (CWEP), a competitive grant program that aims to assist with the costs of installing high-efficiency, biomass-fueled energy systems. Shaheen’s bipartisan legislation with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) – the Community Wood Energy Innovation Act – was included in the Farm bill signed into law in 2018. Their bipartisan bill expands eligibility for CWEP, incentivizes investments in energy-efficient wood energy systems and supports facilities that repurpose low-grade, low-value wood that would otherwise be sent to landfills.

Additionally, Shaheen has included language in recent funding bills to ensure portions of Northern Border Regional Commission funds be directed to assist rural communities affected by past mill closures, as well as support new markets and the infrastructure needs of the forest products industry. In the government funding legislation signed into law in December, Shaheen helped secure $30 million for the NBRC, which is a $5 million increase above the FY2020 funding level and the highest the program has ever been funded.