In a major victory for the forestry industry, the recently passed Farm Bill includes a provision codifying the EPA's 35+ year treatment of forest roads as nonpoint sources of pollution. The provision provides legislative weight to the recent Supreme Court ruling
and preserves the EPA's longstanding position that forest roads are not subject to point source regulations under the Clean Water Act.
In addition to preserving the EPA's silviculture rule, the provision protects the logger's right to establish and maintain forest roads without applying for point source permits (used for factories or other industrial facilities). It also shields landowners from citizen law suits. Through this legislation the EPA can continue to use state-developed Best Management Practices for monitoring forest roads and managing forests under the Clean Water Act.
This new law will provide certainty to the industry after the recent Court rulings opened the door to continued legal challenges and potentially costly permitting delays, which could have negatively impacted forestry and logging operations throughout the U.S. The forestry industry has long supported legislation, the Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act (H.R. 2541), to ensure that forest roads would always be considered non-point discharges. This legislation was previously introduced in two sessions of Congress, but did not make it the floor for a vote.
Other key forestry provisions in the Farm Bill include:
- 1. Permanent reauthorization of stewardship contracting authority
- 2. Authorizes Categorical Exclusions up to 3,000 acres for disease and insect infestations
- 3. Authorizes Good Neighbor Authority
- 4. Authorizes designation by description and designation by prescription as valid methods of designation for timber sales.
- 5. Includes forest products within the labeling and procurement preferences of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "bio based" program.
- 6. Full payment-in-lieu of taxes funding to counties and schools for twelve months.
- 7. Expands Healthy Forest Restoration Act authorities to streamline projects in "critical areas" that have been identified as facing forest health threats.
- 8. Reaffirms the projects conducted under Categorical Exclusions should not be subject to Administrative Appeals.
- 9. Fire liability provisions in stewardship contracts will now be the same as in timber sale contracts.
- 10. Governors are given greater authority in the identification of critical areas for CEs on national forest lands.
John Deere has partnered with customers and associations such as National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) and American Loggers Council (ALC) to reaffirm the EPA's treatment of forestry operations as non-point sources of pollution under the Clean Water Act, and exempt the conduct of silviculture activities from the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permitting requirements.