Three forestry related bills were heard in the Senate Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Division this week. All of the bills were aimed at protecting and preserving sustainable, healthy, multi-use forests across the state.
The first bill (S.F. 424) addresses the need for more maintenance funding for state forest roads. The bill appropriates $1 million in FY 2016 and $1 million in FY 2017 from the General Fund to the DNR commissioner for a pilot program to increase forest road maintenance. Testifiers in committee spoke about the significant lack of adequate funding; from FY 2009 to FY 2013, forest road maintenance expenditures averaged more than $800,000 per year less than estimated annual needs, not including DNR staff time.
Senate File 23 was also heard in committee and would appropriate $5 million in FY 2016 to the Minnesota Forests for the Future program. The program is designed to protect forested land, provides public access to state-managed lands, and ensures Minnesota forests are being properly managed. Over the state’s history, hundreds of thousands of acres of forested land have been sold or cleared off. This program is designed to turn that trend around.
The final forestry related bill (S.F. 156) heard in committee this week appropriates $300,000 in FY 2016 and $300,000 in FY 2017 from the General Fund to the DNR commissioner for the Minnesota Forest Resources Council to implement the Sustainable Forest Resources Act. The money will help the Minnesota Forest Resources Council implement a number of recommendations to help retain and create Minnesota jobs by enhancing the competitiveness of the state’s forest industry. Key recommendations include addressing forest health and improving forest management guidelines. (S.F. 424/S.F. 23/S.F. 156)