WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) introduced a bill today to permanently reauthorize the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) Special Forest Products pilot program that allows the sustainable harvest of special forest products on lands in the National Forest System. The program allows the public to harvest natural forest resources for personal or commercial use; these special products include mushrooms, roots, seeds, Christmas trees and firewood, among others.
“We have a rich abundance of natural resources in our public forests that benefit rural communities, tribal residents and visitors to our region. Folks should be able to responsibly harvest some of these products from their forests for their enjoyment and benefit,” Herrera Beutler said. “I’m pleased to introduce legislation today to permanently extend this program that allows for the sustainable harvesting of special forest products, which in turn, helps with responsible stewardship of our federal forests.”
“The Pacific Northwest is home to a myriad of natural products that the public should be able to use and enjoy,” Schrader said. “This bipartisan bill will allow for individuals and tribes to continue to enjoy and harvest our natural forest’s bounty while ensuring that commercial users pay a reasonable fee for utilizing these resources.”
“As a community-based partnership of diverse stakeholders who work together to advance projects that enhance forest health, economic vitality, recreation, and public safety on the southern Gifford Pinchot National Forest and in surrounding communities, we value the benefits of the Special Forest Products program for Forest Service operations, local communities, and tribes. We strongly support permanent authorization for the vital Special Forest Products program included in this bill,” said South Gifford Pinchot Collaborative Coordinator Lisa Naas Cook.
Individuals who intend to harvest at a commercial level must obtain a permit and pay a fee to the USFS, the revenue from which helps administer the program. Those harvesting products for personal-use are exempt from permit requirements. Gathering of products by federally-recognized tribes for traditional or medicinal use is permitted under the personal-use exemption. Threatened, endangered or rare products are protected from harvest under the pilot program.
Importance of the Special Forest Products Program (SFP) in Southwest Washington:
- Approximately $860,000 in product value is harvested each year on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest – the largest program in the nation.
- SFP contributes to responsible, sustainable stewardship of our National Forests by removing excess forest products.
- SFP is self-sustained and doesn’t need federal government funding.
- SFP employs a handful of people fulltime and keeps the money from the harvests in the local economy.