WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Reps. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA-03) and Russ Fulcher (R-ID-01)’s bipartisan bill, the Treating Tribes and Counties as Good Neighbors Act H.R. 1450, passed the House of Representatives. The legislation now heads to the Senate for consideration.
The Treating Tribes and Counties as Good Neighbors Act fully extends eligibility for the Forest Service’s Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) program for federal forest restoration and management projects to Tribes and counties and increases opportunities for cross-boundary restoration.
“Ensuring the health and longevity of our national forests for future generations is central to who we are as rural Americans. The Good Neighbor Authority has been critical to that effort and gotten boots on the ground to manage these lands,” said Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez. “I’m thrilled that the House has taken this important step to build on the success of the Good Neighbor Authority to ensure Tribes and counties can fully share in its success and we can continue to enjoy this resource for years to come.”
“Tribes and Counties in Idaho have the authority to decrease their reliance on federal land managers and oversee Idaho’s forests to reduce wildfire risk, but their current financial resources are lacking because they cannot retain receipts like the States. This financial hurdle is addressed by the ‘Treating Tribes and Counties as Good Neighbors Act,’ allowing Tribes and Counties to fully utilize the Good Neighbor Authority, ensuring new cooperative management projects throughout Idaho. I am thankful to Representative Marie Gluesenkamp Perez for her thoughtful leadership on H.R. 1450 in the Agriculture Committee and seeing this through to passage,” said Rep. Fulcher.
The Treating Tribes and Counties as Good Neighbors Act has received support from local and national forestry stakeholders.
“The nation’s State Foresters applaud Representatives Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA) and Fulcher (R-ID) for their bold leadership in introducing the Treating Tribes and Counties as Good Neighbors Act, securing strong bipartisan support for the bill, and shepherding this important legislation to the House floor for a vote,” said Kacey KC, President of the National Association of State Foresters. “The Good Neighbor Authority is contributing to the restoration of federal forests on a scale never before realized and it’s time to fully unlock its potential as a cross boundary restoration tool.”
“Through our close relationships and years of work on behalf of forests with both Tribes and counties in the lower Columbia River region, we strongly attest to the benefits of this bill. Directing Good Neighbor Authority to Tribes and counties will support community-based forest management. Community-based forest management is good for communities, economies and forest health,” said Cherie Kearney, Forest Conservation Director for the Columbia Land Trust.
“We thank Reps. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez and Derek Kilmer for their leadership and success in expanding Good Neighbor Authority to counties and tribes,”said the Chairwoman for the Cowlitz Tribe Patty Kinswa-Gaiser. “This effort will build on the critical work the tribe already does for forest and habitat restoration for native species. The Gifford Pinchot has always held cultural and spiritual importance to the Cowlitz people, and this bill will allow tribes such as the Cowlitz to take on more projects to improve our national forests and rivers.”
“This legislation marks a step in the right direction for Skamania County to better partner with the U.S. Forest Service to manage our federal forests and to utilize excess funds from restoration projects to invest in our community,” said Skamania County Commissioner Tom Lannen. “This is a significant addition to our toolbox and a refreshing development to see a bipartisan coalition accomplish a positive outcome for timber communities.”
“Since I signed the first Good Neighbor Authority agreement between Washington State and the federal government in 2017, we have been a model for the rest of the country to see what is possible when we work across boundaries,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who oversees the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. “Our forests are in crisis. Because of our Good Neighbor agreements with every national forest in Washington, DNR has restored more than 19,000 acres of federal forests since 2019. We must increase the pace and scale of that work in order to ensure those forests remain strong for generations to come. By allowing our Tribal and county partners to enter into Good Neighbor agreements, we can continue to protect our forests and help tackle climate change while securing our working lands, creating jobs, and building more resilient communities. It’s a no-brainer.”
The Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) program has allowed the U.S. Forest Service to partner with states on federal forest restoration and management projects to improve wildlife habitats, enhance watersheds, and reduce wildfire risks. In the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress amended GNA to make Tribes and Counties eligible to enter into Good Neighbor Agreements. However, Tribes and Counties were not afforded the same authority as states to retain GNA project receipts to reinvest in conservation, reducing a significant incentive to partner on forest management projects.
Additionally, the 2018 Farm Bill removed the ability for restoration services to take place off of federal lands. This means adjacent state, tribal, county, and other land that is essential to the health and productivity of National Forests can no longer be restored as comprehensive landscapes.
The Treating Tribes and Counties as Good Neighbors Act provides Tribes and Counties with the ability to reinvest receipts in authorized restoration and enables all GNA partners to perform restoration not just on federal lands, but also on lands approved under the project’s Good Neighbor Agreement. The Good Neighbor Authority program is expected to be reauthorized in the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill.