More than 193 million acres of the National Forest System is managed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), located within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Of this total, 46 million acres (24%) are designated as allowable for timber harvest. We acknowledge that are multiple challenges to managing a system as expansive and as diverse as this, including damage caused by pest and invasive species, devastating forest fires, satisfying the concerns of various special interest groups, and budget constraints. However we also believe that the currently designated number of acres allowable for timber harvest is less than it should be and that timber harvesting is not necessarily incompatible with other uses of the forest.
Hardwood Federation members are particularly concerned about the impact the above challenges and limited lands available for harvest have on the availability of timber and fiber from federal forests. Timber sales have declined significantly in recent years, negatively impacting countless wood products businesses, local communities and schools that rely on the jobs and tax base provided by the industry. Federation members are also concerned that the decline in active management of federal lands has also negatively impacted the general health and sustainability of the forests.
Beginning in 2013, the Hardwood Federation fought attempts to declare the Northern Long Eared Bat as an endangered species. Such a listing would have devastated logging operations in at least 39 states. In January 2016, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a
final 4(d) rule designating the NLEB as threatened. The rule was, in general, good for the
hardwood industry, making significant concessions to allow for continued
harvesting in the spring, summer and fall months. Our focused has now turned to preserving the threatened designation and maintaining the 4(d) rule as currently implemented.
The US Environmental Protection Agency is developing rules to govern the emission of biomass. How they approach this issue could have serious consequences for the forest products industry. The Hardwood Federation is tracking the development of the guidelines and providing input and comments.
On August 2, 2016, the U.S. Department of Treasury proposed changes to federal estate tax regulations that will have a significant, negative impact on small and medium businesses, including hardwood lumber businesses. The proposed regulatory changes under Code Section 2704 potentially prohibit the use of any type of discounts that are customarily applied in valuing assets and property for both tax and non-tax purposes. These include discounts for both minority interests and lack of marketability. The proposed changes add considerable complexity to the process of valuing and transferring closely-held interests, adding to the costs and burdens for family business owners.
Tax Reform plans are on the table for 2015. Some proposals would eliminate current tax benefits for forest land owners. The Hardwood Federation is working to educate Members of Congress about the benefits of current programs to both forest sustainability and the industry.
In 2016, the House and Senate have introduced nearly identical “Timber Innovation Act” bills (S 2892 and HR 5628). The legislation would create opportunities to use wood products, including mass timber, in the construction of so-called tall wood buildings. The proposals define “tall wood building” as those that are designed to be over 85 feet high.
The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) receives support from both the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program, using the funds to provide vital services to the hardwood industry. The Hardwood Federation strongly supports full funding for MAP and FMD as authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill. These programs provide essential resources to support development of foreign markets for U.S. hardwood and hardwood products.
The Lacey Act as amended in 2008 makes it against the law for illegally harvested timber and products made from this timber from being imported into the United States. Illegally harvest timber competes unfairly with U.S. timber and goods and is detrimental to good environmental stewardship efforts.
Many green building programs exclude sustainable wood products because of an unfair, unscientific bias against them. Inclusion of Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) in the schemes would more accurately demonstrates the true green nature of wood products.