HELENA – Governor Steve Bullock continues his efforts to move forward a new trade agreement between the U.S. and Canada on softwood lumber. The negotiations are being led by the United States Trade Representative and the Canadian Minister of International Trade, who have been in direct discussions since March. Governor Bullock has engaged fellow governors and stakeholders to elevate the importance of finding a swift and fair resolution to this issue.
“This agreement must protect and maintain timber jobs in Montana,” Governor Bullock said. “I will continue to stand up for Montana and ensure that the U.S. trade laws are fully enforced against unfairly traded imports.”
Governor Bullock yesterday discussed the current status of negotiations with Ambassador Michael Froman, United States Trade Representative, and stressed that any agreement reached must allow for certainty and predictability for industries on both sides of the border.
Zoltan van Heyningen, Executive Director of the U.S. Lumber Coalition, stated that “on behalf of the U.S. Lumber Coalition and its members in the great state of Montana and throughout the United States, we sincerely appreciate the leadership of Governor Bullock in directly engaging this critical issue that affects so many U.S. companies, workers, and their communities. The support of the State of Montana, and its entire Congressional delegation, is critical to achieving the outcome that our industry needs with respect to addressing unfair trade from Canada.”
Loren Rose, COO of Pyramid Lumber, praised Governor Bullock’s Forests in Focus initiative and his commitment to the forest products industry in Montana, saying “Governor Bullock’s Forests in Focus initiative illustrates both his understanding of the dire situation the industry in Montana faces and the need to prompt the Forest Service to action. It is clear that the governor understands the vital role the forest products industry plays in keeping our lands healthy and productive.”
BIPARTISAN CALL FOR ACTION
Governor Bullock in May asked five fellow Governors to sign on to a letter to Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for the Western Hemisphere John Melle – Governor Hickenlooper (CO), Governor Otter (ID), Governor Daugaard (SD), Jay Inslee (WA), and Governor Mead (WY).
“The forest products industry remains vital to western states from both environmental as well as economic perspectives,” they wrote. “Western mills need a steady supply of logs, fair prices for lumber, and open, fair competition with Canadian suppliers under any market condition.”
FORESTS IN FOCUS
Governor Bullock developed his “Forests in Focus” program after nominating 5 million acres of national system forest lands under the 2014 Farm Bill for designation as Priority Landscapes to accelerate forest restoration in Montana. That designation allows for streamlined analysis of projects to increase the pace of planned federal forest management activities. In July of 2014, Governor Bullock announced $3.5 million in funding for investment in federal forest management projects on national forest lands, cost-share forest restoration projects on tribal and private forested lands, and increased local fire suppression capability. As a result:
- $1 million has been invested in projects on National Forest lands, to put Montanans to work in the woods, and promote collaboration, improved wildlife and fisheries habitat, and reduced fire danger. These projects are anticipated to result in on the ground benefits for recreation, wildlife, watershed and forest health, reduced fire danger, and more than 55 million board feet of timber to local mills.
- $2 million was allocated to cost-share forest restoration projects on tribal, private, and state forested lands, addressing forest health and producing approximately 10 million board feet of saw logs and pulp.
- $500,000 for 10 new wildland fire engines for rural fire departments.
In October of 2015, and to further the objectives of Forests in Focus, Governor Bullock announced an additional $3 million in funding:
- $2 million has been already been allocated for additional non-federal forest restoration projects which will produce another 10 million board feet of saw logs and pulp for the forest industry.
- By July 31st, another $1 million will be invested to accelerate forest restoration projects on National Forest Lands.
- Another $1.5 million is “at the ready” pending developments with fire season projections.
WESTERN GOVERNORS ASSOCIATION
On June 14, 2016, Governor Bullock took over as Chairman of the Western Governors Association and announced that his Chairman’s initiative would center on improving forest and rangeland management.
The Western Governors' Association represents the Governors of 19 Western states and 3 U.S.-flag islands. The association is an instrument of the Governors for bipartisan policy development, information exchange and collective action on issues of critical importance to the Western United States.