Senators Murray, Merkley Urge Support for Forestry Conservation Bonds that will Save Jobs and Protect Working Forests

Senators Murray, Merkley Urge Support for Forestry Conservation Bonds that will Save Jobs and Protect Working Forests


Washington, DC
– Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) sent a letter to Senator Baucus and Senator Grassley urging the Senate Finance Committee to include an innovative forestry conservation bond program in the next jobs bill that will save jobs and forests throughout the county. These bonds would create a new financial tool to facilitate the purchase of working forest land at risk of development with the assistance of tax-exempt revenue bonds and allow local governments and non-profit community groups to issue bonds to finance the acquisition of private timberland to keep the land managed as working forest.

“Without the incentive of forestry conservation bonds, the United States risks losing millions of acres of working forest land in coming years, along with the thousands of forestry jobs they support,” Senators Murray and Merkley wrote in the letter. “The creation of these bonds would provide a long-lasting benefit to many rural communities, while also contributing to our nation’s strong conservation legacy.  We urge you to include them in any job-creating package of legislation.”

The U.S. Forest Service recently predicted that 23 million acres of forest land will be lost by 2050.  Much of the land is being sold to developers, which results in the destruction of forests and loss of timber jobs in this country. Forestry conservation bonds would allow local government and non-profits to protect local forests and preserve the jobs that are critical to their communities. Under this program, it is estimated that qualified buyers would be able to purchase over two million acres of working forest land, thereby conserving both the forests themselves and an estimated 13,500 jobs in forestry and related industries.

The full text of the letter sent to Senator Baucus and Senator Grassley follows:

February 25, 2010

Senators Baucus and Grassley:

As the Finance Committee continues its work on tax provisions for the tax extenders package, as well as other jobs creating packages, we write to request that you include an innovative provision that will save American jobs and also save working American forests through forestry conservation bonds.

Small, family-owned working forests are rapidly disappearing throughout the country, as the owners are faced with greater and greater costs.  The U.S. Forest Service recently predicted that 23 million acres of forest land will be lost by 2050.  Much of the land is being sold to developers, which results in the destruction of forests and loss of timber jobs in this country.  In many communities across the United States, local business and conservation groups have expressed a willingness to save timber jobs in their communities while also protecting the environment.  Forestry conservation bonds are essential for this to happen.  

Forestry conservation bonds would create a new financial tool to facilitate the purchase of working forest land with the assistance of tax-exempt revenue bonds.  The bill will permit the distribution of up to $3 billion in forestry conservation bonds throughout four of the major U.S. Forest Service regions.

Forestry conservation bonds will allow local governments and non-profit community groups to issue tax-exempt bonds to finance the acquisition of private timberland.  The land must be managed for conservation, but timber harvesting would be allowed, as long as it is done in a way that is consistent with a conservation purpose of the land.

Under this program, it is estimated that qualified buyers would be able to purchase over two million acres of working forest land, thereby conserving both the forests themselves and an estimated 13,500 jobs in forestry and related industries.  Because of the expected benefits, this bill has enjoyed bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House and is widely supported by forest products corporations, financial firms, state government agencies, and conservation groups.  As a result, this provision has successfully passed both the Senate Finance Committee and the full Senate in recent years.

Without the incentive of forestry conservation bonds, the United States risks losing millions of acres of working forest land in coming years, along with the thousands of forestry jobs they support.  The creation of these bonds would provide a long-lasting benefit to many rural communities, while also contributing to our nation’s strong conservation legacy.  We urge you to include them in any job-creating package of legislation.

Thank you for your consideration.  

Sincerely,