Senator Baldwin Applauds President’s Budget Proposal for Including Support for Wisconsin’s Timber Economy

Baldwin Pressed for Fix to Broken Forest Management Funding System

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committees, applauded the inclusion of a fix for the broken wildfire suppression funding system and support for Wisconsin’s timber and paper industry in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal.

“Our forests and the timber industry in northern and central Wisconsin are facing a number of challenges that need to be addressed,” said Baldwin. “I applaud the President for including this effort to help create a more stable supply of timber from our federal forest lands, while sustainably managing our forest resources. Fixing fire borrowing is an important step forward for our Wisconsin timber economy.”

The fire funding fix is long overdue,” said Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association President Bill Hennigan. “We appreciate the efforts of Senator Baldwin in advocating for this budgetary fix that will help keep dollars where they belong, enabling USFS personnel to prevent further deterioration of our national forests through sustainable forest management.”

In recent years, U.S. Forest Service funds have been regularly diverted from Wisconsin forests to fight wildfires in the west, in a process known as “fire borrowing.” The President’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal would solve the chronic problem of funding intended for forest management and fire prevention activities being used for wildfire suppression. By funding major wildfires through the same methods as other natural disasters, the budget fix will free up the necessary resources for the Forest Service to complete its critical missions related to timber contract management, forest health and forest fire prevention.

Last week, Baldwin cosponsored a bipartisan bill to fix the broken system for funding wildfire suppression and support Wisconsin’s timber and paper industry. The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, introduced by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mike Crapo (R-ID), would have overhauled federal wildfire policy to boost funding for forest management and treat the largest wildfires as natural disasters.

Throughout her time in the Senate, Baldwin has worked to promote the Northern Wisconsin timber economy. In July 2014, Baldwin spoke at an ENR Committee Hearing, "Wildfire Preparedness & Forest Service 2015 Fiscal Year Budget” and on the Senate floor urging her colleagues to fix the broken budget process. Baldwin also authored a column in the Appleton Post Crescent titled “Wisconsin Forests Deserve Better” to highlight a bipartisan and fiscally responsible solution to fire borrowing, which diverts money to other states, and away from Wisconsin forests and the state’s timber industry. 

In August, Baldwin toured the Nicolet Hardwoods log yard and mill and met with Gordon Connor of Nicolet Hardwoods, Wisconsin Council on Forestry Chairman Henry Schienebeck, Wisconsin County Forests Association Executive Director Jane Severt, Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association President Mark Huempfner and others to discuss Wisconsin’s timber economy. Baldwin also sat down with the Northeast Wisconsin Forest Improvement Collaborative (NEWFIC) to discuss ways to provide certainty to Wisconsin’s forest products industry by improving the pace of logging and predictability of forest management on federal land.

In October, Baldwin invited U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell for a discussion with local stakeholders on the challenges facing Wisconsin’s timber economy. Baldwin and Chief Tidwell toured both public and private forest lands in Northeast Wisconsin and discussed plans to improve management of Wisconsin’s national forest land with local Wisconsin stakeholders.