Trees for Schools – An Update
Over a century ago, the federal government promised rural communities that it would actively manage forest land to the communities’ benefit, historically sharing around 25 percent of revenues from timber harvests with rural counties that contain National Forest Land. This money could be used in lieu of revenue these communities might otherwise have received from property taxes if the land were not owned by the federal government, and could be used to fund schools, teachers, police officers, etc. Recipients of these funds within the Ninth District of Virginia include the following counties: Alleghany, Bland, Carroll, Craig, Dickenson, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Montgomery, Pulaski, Roanoke, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise, and Wythe.
Due to federal regulations and environmental lawsuits, however, the Forest Service over the years has reduced the amount of federal forest land being timbered. In my opinion, this not only has destroyed jobs and deprived rural communities of needed revenue, but also is poor forest management, making the land more susceptible to invasive species and wildfires. Tragically, the House Natural Resources Committee states that wildfires burned 9.3 million acres last year alone.
Badly needed is a long-term solution to improve forest health and management, fulfill the federal government’s promise to rural communities, and grow jobs. To that end, the House Natural Resources Committee over the last several months has worked to advance H.R. 1526, the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act. This legislation would promote responsible timber production, improve state and local involvement, and restore the federal government’s commitment to rural communities. This should mean more money for Southwest Virginia localities.
I am an original cosponsor of this legislation, which recently passed the House with my support. Similar legislation recently passed the Senate. I will continue monitoring the progress of this legislation, and working to promote healthier forests and get residents of the Ninth District’s rural communities back to work.
As always, if you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office by email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov."
Comment from PK: Do I have questions and concerns? Mercy. I have so many questions and concerns that I can't see any way to learn enough to make an intelligent comment. Will other Virginians please, please, please pick up this one?