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

September 24, 2020

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) reintroduced the Forest Incentives Program Act with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), which would 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.

“Private forests are important in New Hampshire and rural communities across the country, protecting our natural resources and wildlife and providing support to regional economies. Our bipartisan bill helps private forest owners implement sustainable practices to maintain their land, which is an investment in the safety and stability of both our environment and local workforce,” said Senator Shaheen. “This bipartisan legislation is a common-sense measure that would empower our forest owners and commercial building owners with additional tools to steward forest lands and invest in their own financial security. Safeguarding America’s forests and prioritizing healthy rural economies are bipartisan concerns and this legislation helps make good on those efforts.”

“West Virginia’s mountainous forest lands are important to our tourism economy and scenic beauty, which is why we must do what we can help support our landowners by making forest management affordable and sustainable. Many landowners in West Virginia have benefited from conservation easement programs that have improved our streams, restored our bird populations, supported our fish stocks, and helped meet Chesapeake Bay water quality targets. This legislation would help encourage more of this by recognizing the valuable role our forests play in sequestering carbon and reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. I’m proud to join Senator Shaheen in introducing this legislation that will go a long way in not only keeping our forest lands healthy and beautiful, but it will also help support our local economies here in West Virginia,” said Senator Capito.

"The New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association is happy to support Senator Shaheen’s legislation, which unites four critical priorities for the Granite State: sustainable forestry and land management, rural jobs, green construction and environmental protection,” said Jasen Stock, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association. “This bill is an important step forward to help New Hampshire private forest owners invest in sustainable management practices.”

“The reintroduction of the Forest Incentives Program Act is great news. We know that forests can play a major role in addressing climate change. Of course, they also provide other important environmental and economic benefits. The challenge has been to make sure that private forestland owners, who own almost 75% of the forested areas in New Hampshire, can continue to hold onto their woodlots. Avoiding the permanent conversion of forests into other uses is essential if we want to maintain these benefits. This legislation will offer the support these landowners need to accomplish that goal.  On behalf of the Forest Society, I want to thank Senator Shaheen for emphasizing why we must 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,” said John Judge, President and CEO of the Appalachian Mountain Club. “In the face of our planet’s climate crisis, we need a quiver full of arrows like the Forest Incentives Program to keep forests forested and expand our capacity to store and reduce atmospheric carbon.  We look forward to working towards passage of this timely bill.”

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: The National Alliance of Forest Owners, NH Timberland Owners Association, American Forests, American Forest Foundation, The Lyme Timber Company, Northland Forest Products, Trust for Public Land, Pinchot Institute for Conservation, Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and Appalachian Mountain Club. Bill 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 2020, 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. This is the first time this program has received funding since it was first authorized in 2008. 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.