Merkley, Crapo Team Up to Expand Collaborative Forest Work

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and Mike Crapo (R-ID) today teamed up to introduce the bipartisan Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) Program Reauthorization Act of 2023. This legislation would reauthorize and expand the CFLR program, which helps fund collaborative and community-based forest management. The CFLR program has a proven track record of improving forest health, reducing wildfire risk, and supporting rural communities.

“When people come together to develop collaborative plans, we can thin overgrown forests and create better timber stands, better ecosystems, better fire resistance, and more jobs,” said Merkley, Chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. “This is a proven, bipartisan model that delivers healthier forests and stronger communities instead of litigation and conflict. Investing more in collaborative solutions will make a real difference in rural communities across Oregon and beyond.”

“Shared, active forest management plays a vital role in reducing the risk of wildfires and fire suppression,” said Senator Crapo. “Ensuring long-term reauthorization of the CFLRP will promote Idaho’s forest health, encourage the responsible stewardship of our public lands and foster resilient, rural economies.  Reauthorizing the CFLRP results in stronger relationships on the ground, more effective projects and a decreased risk of conflict and litigation.”

In addition to Merkley and Crapo, this legislation is supported by Senators Jim Risch (R-ID), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Michael Bennet (D-CO).

The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) program brings stakeholders from all walks of life together to create solutions aimed at reducing wildfire risk across the West. Requirements of this program ensure various local stakeholders collaborate, resulting in stronger relationships on the ground, better more effective projects, and a decreased risk of conflict and litigation. Chairman Merkley doubled funding for the program in the Fiscal Year 2022 Interior spending bill, which funds the U.S. Forest Service. This funded all five collaboratives in Oregon, including the new Rogue River CFLR. The program was last reauthorized by Senators Merkley and Crapo in the 2018 Farm Bill. The Senate is expected to take up a new 5-year Farm Bill in 2023.

CFLR was first authorized in 2009, and in the first ten years of the program, CFLR projects treated and restored 5.7 million acres of forestland, and have helped improve 1,000 miles of trails and maintain 25,000 miles of roads.

The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program Reauthorization Act of 2023 would extend the program for another ten years, increase the size and scope of the Collaborative to reduce wildfire risk, and make other program improvements.

Final bill text can be found here.

A bill summary can be found here.

Today’s legislation is supported by a broad cross-section of the timber industry, rural economic development entities, and environmental organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, Sustainable Northwest, Western Environmental Law Center, Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative, Lomakatsi Restoration Project, Ochoco Lumber Company, and Blue Mountains Forest Partners.

“America’s forests are under threat like never before. A changing climate, drought, uncharacteristically catastrophic megafires, and other threats are driving an unprecedented decline in our forests, a decline that jeopardizes the many benefits they provide. The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program has been a game changer for our forests, supporting community-driven restoration efforts that improve the health of our forests while supporting local economies, growing recreational opportunities, and restoring wildlife habitats. Reauthorizing and expanding this program will build on more than a decade of restoration efforts, providing greater certainty and opportunity to grow this successful program in the years to come. This is and should remain a win-win for people and nature. We are grateful for the bipartisan support for continuing this program’s success and look forward to advancing this legislation,” said Cecilia Clavet, senior policy advisor at The Nature Conservancy.

“Sustainable Northwest commends Senator Merkley and Senator Crapo for introduction of this essential bipartisan legislation. Time and again, CFLRP has proven that it is the premier national program to reduce wildfire risk, support rural businesses, improve wildlife habitat and trails for recreation, and restore the health of our public lands. Extending and expanding CFLRP so these successes can be replicated should be a top priority for anyone who cares about the health and well-being of our National Forests and communities that depend on them,” said Dylan Kruse, Vice President of Sustainable Northwest.

“Since its enactment, the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program has demonstrated resounding success in building partnerships, restoring large landscapes, and providing rural community socioeconomic well-being.  WELC is pleased to support reauthorization and expansion of this incredible program, and Senators Merkley and Crapo are to be commended for their steadfast advocacy for the Program,” said Susan Brown, Wildlands Program Director & Senior Staff Attorney of Western Environmental Law Center.

“CFLRP has allowed the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project and the Deschutes National Forest to reduce dangerous fuel loads and increase forest and watershed health and resiliency across over 100,000 acres in the Wildland Urban Interface surrounding Sisters, Bend, and Sunriver. Extending and expanding CFLRP will provide more communities with opportunities like this to improve community safety, enhance habitat for fish and wildlife, create stewardship jobs, and prevent disruption to tourism and recreation. I’m grateful to Senators Merkley and Crapo for working to continue and grow this important program,” said Deschutes County Commissioner, Phil Chang.

“Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative strongly endorses the CFLR reauthorization. The CFLRP focuses on reducing risk to habitats and communities across all lands including the WUI, where communities and forested landscapes interface.  Its emphasis on innovation and community involvement has always been a strong point of the CFLRP, and this reauthorization strengthens that focus,” said Terry Fairbanks, Executive Director, Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative.

Lomakatsi Restoration Project and our agency, tribal, and community-based partners have been working to increase the pace and scale of forest restoration for many years, and the CFLR meets the moment with essential investment over the next decade. We look forward to continued collaboration that will accomplish more strategic ecological forest restoration across the landscape to build community and ecosystem resilience, while creating jobs and workforce development opportunities,” said Marko Bey, Founder & Executive Director, Lomakatsi Restoration Project.

“Improving forest health and providing good-paying jobs in our community are at the core of our business,” said Bruce Daucsavage, General Director of Ochoco Lumber Company. “The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program has sustained jobs at our mill, brought diverse stakeholders together, and resulted in significant restoration on the Malheur National Forest. Stable, long-term funding from programs like CFLRP has also provided the certainty we need to justify increased private investments in our operation. Continuing this program is critical.”

“The significant financial and social investment the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program provided the Southern Blues Restoration Coalition proved to be a game changer for the Malheur National Forest and Grant County. The Malheur and our resource-dependent communities are healthier, more resilient, and better prepared for what the future may bring. This just wouldn’t have happened without CFLRP funding and support. I can’t thank Senators Merkley and Crapo enough for their role in reauthorizing and expanding the program for the sake of public landscapes and public land-dominated counties. What an incredible federal investment in public lands that pays multiple dividends,” said Mark Webb, Blue Mountains Forest Partners.