July 19, 2021

Neguse Helps Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Fund Remediation and Restoration of Damaged Public Lands

As Chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, Neguse is Advocating for More Federal Resources for Forest Restoration and Public Lands Maintenance 

Washington, D.C.— Today, Representative Joe Neguse joined colleagues Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA), Matt Rosendale (R-MT), and Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) to introduce the National Forest Restoration and Remediation Act to help the Forest Service fund the clean-up of damaged forest lands. This bill would allow the Forest Service to collect and keep the interest earned on settlement funds, much like other Federal agencies can, in order to supplement restoration efforts.

“As Chair of the Forests Subcommittee in Congress, I’ve noted time and time again how critical it is that we increase funding for the Forest Service so that our local communities in Colorado and across the West are adequately equipped to restore our lands and forests and battle record-setting wildfires. From Breckenridge to Idaho Springs, Estes Park to Granby, communities across my district see increased need for forest maintenance and restoration, and without proper federal funding they are often left having to pick up the tab to complete necessary work in our National Forests and on our public lands, ” said Congressman Joe Neguse, Chair of the U.S. Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. “The National Forest Restoration and Remediation Act, which I am proud to help introduce alongside my colleagues, is a common-sense measure that will help the Forest Service retain more funds to protect and restore our lands, and support our Western communities.”
“The Forest Service provides many important environmental services in Washington state, including mitigating wildfires and improving forest health,” said Congresswoman Schrier. “As we confront another potentially devastating wildfire season, it’s important that we provide the Forest Service with sufficient resources to protect our public lands. I’m proud to introduce this bill with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure the Forest Service can retain more funds to protect and remediate forests after wildfires and other damaging actions.”

“The National Forest Restoration and Remediation Act is a common-sense approach to allow the Forest Service to utilize accumulated interest on settlement agreements to protect and preserve damaged lands, without additional cost to taxpayers. Restoration projects take years, sometimes decades to complete. The inability to access interest earnings results in budget shortfalls and delays in restoration efforts. This needs to change. I’m very pleased to join with Congresswoman Schrier to lead this bipartisan effort,” Congressman Rosendale said.

“This commonsense bill will allow the U.S. Forest Service to use the additional interest they gather to continue restoration work. This is an authority that other agencies like the Department of the Interior already have. As massive fires burn across California and the West, the need for restoration dollars will unfortunately be high. I will continue to work to ensure that the Forest Service has the authorities and tools they need to properly manage our forests,” said Congressman LaMalfa.

The Forest Service (FS) is responsible for overseeing the remediation and restoration of lands damaged by mining activities and wildfires. When the negligent actions of companies or individuals result in damages to FS property, FS officials enter a settlement agreement with the responsible parties to hold them accountable. FS then uses the settlement funds to conduct restoration and remediation actions on the affected lands. 

At the moment, the Forest Service does not have the authority to retain interest on settlement funds like other Federal agencies, such as the Department of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency. The National Forest Restoration and Remediation Act would allow the Forest Service to retain interest on settlement funds and apply those additional resources to complete necessary restoration work. Without this additional funding, the value of settlement funds diminishes over time and the FS can face long-term budget shortfalls for environmental clean-up.