Murray Applauds Passage of Forest Conservation Legislation

May 23 2001

Act reduces suburban sprawl, promotes livable growth, benefits timber companies

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, the Senate passed Senator Patty Murray's tax bill that promotes forestland conservation. Murray's bipartisan bill, the Community Forestry and Agriculture Conservation Act, would allow communities to issue bonds on behalf of private non-profit organizations. These organizations could then work with private landowners to purchase tracts of forest and farmland. This would prevent development, while protecting private property rights, and the jobs and businesses that are tied to the land. Murray introduced the bi-partisan legislation with Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon on May 3, 2001.

"Senate passage of this legislation is a big step forward for conserving private forest land in Washington State and around the nation," said Murray. "Right now, communities don't have the tools they need to prevent sprawl. My bill corrects that problem."

The Senate bill now goes to conference committee, which will resolve the differences between the House and Senate tax bills.

Senator Patty Murray and Representative Jennifer Dunn are the prime Senate and House sponsors of the legislation. Under the bill, communities would set up a 501 (c)(3) non-profit corporation with a diverse board of directors and develop a binding management plan to provide for the responsible continued harvest of the land.

As many landowners are land rich and capital poor, this bill would allow them to capitalize some or all of their assets through the sale of a tract of land, while maintaining the farms, businesses, and jobs that could have been lost through the land's outright sale to the government.

The cost of the bill is estimated to be $98 million over five years. The Senate amendment would make the bill law for three years, beginning January 1, 2002.

The bill is supported by:

Environmental groups: American Sport Fishing Association, Land Trust Alliance, The Nature Conservancy, Pacific Forest, Trust for Public Land, and The World Wildlife Fund.

Forest Industry: The Campbell Group, Collins Pine Companies, The Harwood Group, Mendocino Redwood Company, Plum Creek Timber, Port Blakely Tree Farms, Weyerhaeuser.

Professional & Government: King County, WA, Mendocino County, CA, and Society of American Foresters, Political Economy Research Center.