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U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Applauds Signing of Good Neighbor Authority Agreement

Baldwin has long championed efforts to ensure the U.S. Forest Service deploys this tool in Wisconsin

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin applauded the announcement from the U.S. Forest Service that a Good Neighbor Authority Agreement has been signed by the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, Good Neighbor Authority allows the Forest Service to enter into agreements or contracts with states to have them perform forest, rangeland and watershed restoration services on National Forest System lands. The completed master agreement, between the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, is one of the first to be signed in the country, and it is expected to result in a significant 25 percent increase in timber sales on the National Forest next year.

“Good Neighbor Authority is an important tool that will help effectively manage Wisconsin’s public forests.  I applaud today’s announcement from the U.S. Forest Service that a first-of-its-kind agreement between the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has been finalized.  I am optimistic that this long awaited Good Neighbor Authority agreement will lead to much-needed increases in timber sale rates while maintaining the long-term health of Wisconsin’s forests,” said Senator Baldwin.

“Wisconsin County Forests Association is grateful for all the effort Senator Baldwin and our Wisconsin congressional delegation have invested ensuring Good Neighbor Authority is a viable solution for Wisconsin’s forestry community to supplement watershed management and sustainable forest management projects on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest,” said Norm Bickford, President Wisconsin County Forests Association. “Senator Baldwin understood the importance of having this program developed at a broad enough level to be successful here in our state.  We face unique forest management challenges in the lake states and look forward to working with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry in the implementation of Good Neighbor Authority.” 

Senator Baldwin has pressed the U.S. Forest Service to deploy this tool in Wisconsin, and after she wrote to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in June, they finalized the authority, and the state and national forest can now enter into contracts for timber and habitat work.

During her time in the United States Senate, Senator Baldwin has worked to ensure the U.S. Forest Service has the tools it needs to work with the timber industry and wildlife advocates to increase the pace of timber harvest, and preserve and protect habitat on public lands. In October 2014, she hosted Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell for a discussion of forest management issues in Wisconsin, and pressed him to ensure that tools including stewardship contracting and “Good Neighbor Authority” were used in Wisconsin. 

“We are extremely pleased to see our local and national U.S. Forest Service representatives work in a joint effort with the Wisconsin DNR Division of Forestry to achieve implementation of the Good Neighbor Authority,” said Bill Hennigan, President of the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association. “Our local, state and national leaders have also worked together tirelessly to make sure the agencies have the tools they need land we greatly appreciate their efforts.  The time and energy they have expended will make sure our national forests are managed sustainably while helping forest dependent rural communities become economically viable once again.”

“This authority is a significant way for the Forest Service to partner with state agencies to make improvements to the land,” said U.S. Forest Service Eastern Regional Forester Kathleen Atkinson. “I’m excited to have a new tool that allows us to work together in unprecedented ways into the future.”

“The agreement allows the state to supplement the great work being done by Forest Service staff on the Chequamegon-Nicolet. Good Neighbor Authority projects will expand our capacity to achieve forest management outcomes described in the 2004 Land and Resource Management Plan for the Forest,” said Paul Strong, Forest Supervisor, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

The master agreement, a broad pact between parties, is the first step. A subsequent Supplemental Project Agreement will be signed in the coming weeks that more specifically identifies the nature of the work to be completed in the first year.

The first project under the agreement will have the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources prepare, award and administer timber sales that already have all of the inventory and planning work completed on the National Forest. These timber sales will enable the Forest Service to increase the amount of timber offered for sale to more than 100 million board feet (MMBF) in fiscal year 2016. Without the Good Neighbor Authority agreement the Forest would sell 85 MMBF in fiscal year 2016. The forest’s timber sale program has been on an upwards trend over the last five years. In fiscal year 2010 the forest sold 62 MMBF and in 2015 80 MMBF is expected to be sold. 

This partnership will provide more wood to Wisconsin’s important forest products industry, while creating and maintaining healthy forest conditions prescribed in the Forest Plan. A portion of the receipts from the timber sales will reimburse the state for its costs to do the work, with remaining funds available to be used to conduct additional restoration activities on the forest.

The Good Neighbor Authority provides the opportunity to work across jurisdictional boundaries and manage forest lands in a mixed ownership setting. It leverages state resources to increase capacity to accomplish work on National Forest System lands. It also helps strengthen federal and state partnerships.