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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) –The House of Representatives today passed a Community Forestry provision as part of the CARE Act, enabling the measure to go to a conference with legislation passed by the Senate in April. The provision would allow local governments to issue tax-exempt bonds to help nonprofit groups buy land for conservation purposes.

Sen. Murray has won Senate passage of Community Forestry legislation three times in the past four years, but the effort met resistance in the House.

Murray worked successfully to pass her Community Forestry legislation in the last Congress as part of the 2001 tax bill. But, 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.

“For four years we have been working to pass this important legislation and today, the House has followed the Senate’s lead, and we are one step closer to success,” Murray said.

“This proposal will help protect open space, curb suburban sprawl, maintain forest jobs and help fish and wildlife. It is the right thing to do to keep our communities livable.

“I want to commend the strong coalition of labor, environmental, and forestry industry leaders who believe, as I do, that we need this bill. And I am pleased that the House has now done the right thing.

“I will continue to work with Hancock Timber and the Evergreen Forest Trust to find the common ground that will benefit families throughout the Puget Sound. And I will encourage other communities throughout Washington to take advantage of this innovative proposal,” Murray continued.

The House and Senate versions of the Community Forestry provision differ. The Senate version, passed in April, provides $2 billion over 3 years to help projects nationwide. The House version provides $250 million over 3 years to help projects only in Washington state. These differences will be resolved in a House-Senate conference committee on the CARE legislation.