On Friday, September 21, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, a bill which is designed to restrict litigation on timber harvests, make forests easier to use, and, after amendment, reinstate Secure Rural Schools funding for counties adjacent to federal lands.

Montana Congressman Steve Daines cosponsored the bill, and championed it on the house floor by saying it would help alleviate the economic struggles of many Montana counties. He specifically mentioned Lincoln County, a county in northwest Montana which once had a thriving timber economy, but has recently suffered double-digit unemployment.

“Today’s passage of the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act is a major step in the right direction as we work toward common sense forest management reforms that protect our forests and help create good jobs,” Daines said. “As a fifth-generation Montanan, I know how important the responsible management of our national forests is for the health of our forests and the health of our state’s economy. We’ve seen firsthand the devastating consequences of the mismanagement of our federal forests from this year’s fire season to rampant pine beetle kill, the health of our forests and the communities that surround them continues to be at risk. My bill has bipartisan support and will create thousands of long-term jobs across Montana, keep all 10 of our National Forests in Montana healthy, protect our environment for future generations and renew the federal government’s commitment to our rural counties. It will usher in a new era of robust, responsible forest management that benefits all Montanans who rely on and enjoy our national forests. I strongly urge the senate to quickly move forward on this important legislation.”

The bill passed on a 243 - 173 vote, mostly on party lines, with 17 Democrats supporting the bill and only one Republican voting against it. The bill now awaits a senate hearing.