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WASHINGTON - Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., announced Monday that the 2018 Farm Bill proposed by the Senate doubles the size of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program and extends it through 2023.

This critical program, which helps fund collaborative and community-based forest management, has a proven track record of improving forest health, reducing wildfire risk, and supporting rural communities, the senators said in a news release.

In May, Merkley and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) led a bipartisan group of senators in introducing the legislation to continue the collaborative forest program, and to expand its reach by doubling the authorized funding. The legislation was cosponsored by Sens. Wyden, Jim Risch (R-ID), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Tom Udall (D-NM) and Jon Tester (D-MT).

“Collaborative forest management strategies have proven successful on many levels: thinning overgrown forests and creating better timber stands, improving ecosystems, building better fire resistance, and creating more jobs and more saw logs for mills,” Merkley said.

“I’ve visited the Deschutes National Forest and been a witness to the valuable progress that is made when communities work together to manage our forests. It’s in everyone’s best interest to direct resources toward job creation and wildfire prevention rather than lawsuits, and that’s why I fought to double the size of this program and double its positive impacts.”

“The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program plays a critical role for Oregon’s forests so they can generate jobs and remain healthy for decades to come,” Wyden said. “As a senior member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I know first-hand from town halls and meetings throughout rural Oregon the necessity of collaborating at the local, state, and federal level to encourage sustainable forest management. This additional federal funding will help empower rural communities across Oregon to restore effective forest management and improve the health of our nation’s forests.”

Since its enactment in 2009, CFLRP has a proven track record of success in managing forests to increase forest health, mitigate wildfires, and support rural economies and local voices. CFLRP requires various local stakeholders to collaborate, resulting in stronger relationships on the ground, better projects, and a decreased risk of conflict and litigation.

To date, 23 CFLRP projects in 14 states have sold more than 2.5 billion board feet of timber; created $1.4 billion in local labor income; and improved 760 miles of trails for sports enthusiasts and recreation. On average, CFLRP creates or maintains 5,400 jobs each year at 2014 funding levels — a number that will likely increase with newly expanded funding.

In addition, CFLRP has reduced the risk of megafires on more than 2.9 million acres.

The funding expansion, from $40 million to $80 million per year, is supported by a broad cross-section of the timber industry, rural economic development entities, and environmental organizations, including Sustainable Northwest, Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition, Collins Pine Company, Ochoco Lumber, Vaagen Bros Lumber, Avista, The Wilderness Society, American Forests, Society of American Foresters, Pinchot Institute, Forest Business Network, Blue Mountains Forest Partners, Lake County Resources Initiative, The Forest Stewards Guild, Siuslaw Institute, Wallowa Resources, Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition, The Lands Council, Western Environmental Law Center, Grand Canyon Trust, Mt. Adams Resource Stewards, The Watershed Center, Salmon Valley Stewardship, Western Landowners Alliance, The Coalition for the Upper South Platte, Choose Outdoors, Western Slope Conservation Center, and Western Colorado Progress.

Wyden and Merkley also announced that most provisions in the Timber Innovation Act are included in the 2018 Farm Bill proposed by the Senate, supporting the development of mass timber products for building construction.

In May, Merkley co-led a letter with Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) which urged the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry to include the Timber Innovation Act in the 2018 Farm Bill. Other cosigners included Sens. Wyden, James Risch (R-ID), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Steven Daines (R-MT), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Gary Peters (D-MI), Angus King (I-ME) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

“We have been working to establish Oregon as a hub for mass timber products, using local timber and bolstering our forest products economy,” Merkley said. “The Timber Innovation Act supports innovative manufacturing that helps to create jobs in the rural part of the state, and lays the groundwork for future sustainable tall wood building construction in urban parts of the state.”

“Oregon is leading the way in cross-laminated timber that is revolutionizing our nation’s construction industry by building safer, higher quality buildings,” Wyden said. “The Timber Innovation Act will keep Oregon on its trailblazing path in engineering and producing these timber products. It will boost economic growth and create good-paying jobs for rural communities in Oregon, while giving Oregonians the tools they need to sustainably manage our local forests.”

Oregon has been at the forefront of developing mass timber products, including cross-laminated timber, nail laminated timber, glue laminated timber, laminated strand lumber, and laminated veneer lumber. However, U.S. building codes do not currently recognize mass timber products as official construction materials, leaving the products without a standard rating system for quality, fire resistance, earthquake resistance, and more.

Provisions from the Timber Innovation Act included in the bill will establish a new research and development program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture that focuses on developing the application of mass timber products for building construction; analyzing the safety of tall wood buildings; identifying building code modification for wooden buildings; and calculating the environmental footprint of wood buildings. The bill also creates a grant program that provides funding to accelerate the adoption of emerging wood technology for building construction.

“There are significant new market opportunities for using a variety of engineered wood products as structural components in commercial buildings,” said Thomas Maness, Dean of the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. “New product testing, research, and professional training are all important as the wood products sector and building design profession transition to using mass timber in innovative ways to construct tall wood buildings. The Timber Innovation Act will help frame strategic investments in the innovation of mass timber technologies and applications that will help our timber-dependent rural communities participate in the growing domestic and international markets for these building products.”

“Architects are embracing the use of sustainable materials. We have a strong interest in mass timber, which sequesters carbon, is a renewable resource, has been demonstrated to be fire resistant and perform well in seismic events, and can play a significant role in transforming the economies of rural communities in the Pacific Northwest,” said Judith Sheine, Professor of Architecture, University of Oregon and Director of Design for the TallWood Design Institute. “Universities are already working on mass timber innovation and educating the professionals of the future, but additional investment in research, testing and product development is needed for full market acceptance and adoption among building industry professionals, government officials and the general public. The Timber Innovation Act would provide critical support for realizing the potential for mass timber to benefit our environment and our economy.”

“CLT and other mass timber products offer great promise for Oregon,” said Paul F. Barnum, Executive Director Oregon Forest Resources Institute. “They provide a path to economic vitality for our rural communities while harnessing wood’s carbon storage potential in the fight against climate change.”

“We have staked our future on Mass Timber Products,” said Rob Freres, Executive Vice President of Freres Lumber. “We endorse the Timber Innovation Act. New product development provides the means to compete worldwide and gives rural communities the opportunity to prosper.”

“We are on the cusp of changing the way we build in the U.S.,” said Thomas Robinson, Founder and Principal, LEVER Architecture. “Support for wood innovation will allow us to ‘grow’ future cities using a natural material that sequesters carbon and connects urban growth to rural economic development.”

“The emergence of Cross Laminated Timber in the U.S. is about more than innovative options for construction, it’s about the resilience and renewal of cities across America where quality of manufacturing is community tradition and identity,” said Courtney Griesel, Economic Development Manager, City of Springfield, Oregon. “CLT offers an opportunity to shine a light on the value and innovation of our jobs, our families, and our local economies as proud manufacturing communities.”

“As architects we feel extremely lucky to live and work in a time when sustainability and material innovations like mass timber are becoming a reality,” said Corey Martin, Principal, Hacker Architects. “Our work comes with great responsibility, as we must continually find the best ways to reduce the impact of the buildings we design, and marry that pursuit with the need for economic development. Mass timber systems are truly one of the most important innovations available. The Timber Innovation Act will help all of us create more beautiful, humane spaces that are durable, economical and efficient while supporting and growing sustainable regional forest economies.”

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