(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- For the third time since 1999, the Senate today passed legislation to create community forestry bonds. The Murray amendment was included in S. 476, the CARE Act, which the Senate passed by a vote of 95-5. The CARE Act is legislation that allows new tax breaks for charitable donations, and offers new technical assistance for small groups that want to offer social services.
The Murray amendment would allow local governments to issue community forestry bonds on behalf of non-profit organizations, like the Evergreen Forest Trust, to purchase working forestland. The non-profit organization would then service the bond debt through continued harvest of the land under a sustainable management plan that protects sensitive areas. An independent third party would hold a permanent conservation easement on the property.
Murray worked successfully to pass her community forestry legislation in the last Congress as part of the 2001 tax bill. Unfortunately, the amendment was stripped during a House-Senate conference because of House opposition. Had the Murray amendment become law that year, it would have enabled the Evergreen Forest Trust to purchase and protect the 104,000 acre Snoqualmie Tree Farm when Evergreen and Weyerhaeuser reached a conditional agreement in January, 2002.
But without congressional action, the Evergreen Forest Trust could not purchase the tree farm, and Weyerhaeuser instead sold the land to a Boston-based timber company. Since the sale was announced, Murray has met with the President of Hancock Timber to urge the company to continue discussions with the Evergreen Forest Trust.
"It's time to give our communities the opportunity to curb suburban sprawl, protect their quality of life and maintain timber jobs," Murray said. "For the last four years, I have fought to do just that by passing my community forestry legislation through the Senate. There have been many obstacles thrown in our way the last four years, but I have never given up. If signed into law, this bill will protect open space, curb suburban sprawl, maintain forest jobs, and help fish and wildlife."
One difference between the Murray amendment and the version passed by the House on March 19 is that the Senate bill would enable non-profits throughout the country to take advantage of the legislation, while the House version is limited solely to the Evergreen Forest Trust.
Murray continued, "I want to commend the strong coalition of labor, environmental, and forestry industry leaders who believe, as I do, that we need this bill. We have earned today's good news, but we cannot be content until this bill is law."