As the U.S. Senate works its way through a long list of amendments to the Farm Bill this week, Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus announced today that a plan to combat bark beetles has passed. The announcement is a bit of good news for the timber industry.
The Farm Bill currently authorizes the U.S. Forest Service to use $100 million to address bark beetle infestation. Baucus said his amendment doubles that amount, while also authorizing “streamlined procedures that promote efficient and responsible action on the ground.”
“This combination makes it clear that both efficient authorities and adequate resources are crucial for this effort,” the release stated. “The funding is authorized to the Forest Service to spend in states where the Governor requests it. The goal of the plan is to save money over the long haul through sustainable harvests versus incurring massive costs related to wildlands firefighting.”
Baucus’ office says western states are experiencing the “largest bark beetle outbreak in recorded history, having lost more than 41.7 million acres of trees.” Montana’s total loss of 6.2 million acres is the second-highest in the nation behind Colorado’s 6.6 million. His office says bark beetles kill as many trees annually as all wildfires across the U.S.
The Senate voted 77 to 22 in favor of the amendment. As a senior member of the agriculture committee, Baucus played a key role in crafting the Farm Bill.
“The Farm Bill has long been an important vehicle for supporting Montana timber jobs,” Baucus said. “The provisions I’ve worked to include in the bill will help us sustainably harvest more trees in Western Montana while propping up our loggers and small timber mills facing one of the worst bark beetle kills in the nation.”
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