April 20, 2021

Wyden Co-sponsors Legislation to Invest in Forest, Watershed Restoration Across the West

Bipartisan Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act would reduce wildfire risk, improve wildlife habitat, and create millions of good paying jobs

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden today joined U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., to introduce legislation that would create or sustain more than 2 million jobs in the outdoors by investing in forest and watershed restoration.

"The climate crisis is not some distant threat. It’s here, and families out West feel its impacts year after year as catastrophic wildfires and extreme weather events devastate their communities,” Wyden said. “Climate action and climate resilience efforts go hand in hand. The West desperately needs a federal investment to restore our public lands and mitigate wildfire risks—investments that will make our communities safer, protect our special places for generations to come, and create good paying jobs, especially in hard hit rural America.”

This legislation would provide direct support to local, collaborative efforts to restore habitat, expand outdoor access, and mitigate wildfire. It would spur federal investment in areas at high-risk of wildfire, with high priority wildlife habitat, or spaces where homes and businesses meet wildland vegetation to build climate resilience in the West.

U.S. Representatives Jason Crow, D-Colo., and Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, will introduce companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Senate bill text is HERE. A one-pager on the bill and a list of supporting organizations is HERE. A section-by-section summary of the bill is HERE.

The Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act is supported by the National Wildlife Federation, National Association of State Foresters, National Wild Turkey Federation, American Forests, National Audubon Society, Family Farm Alliance, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Western Landowners Alliance, Western Resource Advocates, Conservation Legacy, and Trout Unlimited.  

“The most critical and cost-effective investments we should be making right now are in our natural infrastructure to protect communities, reduce wildfire risk, and maintain clean drinking water and public access,” said Dylan Kruse, Director of Government Affairs at Sustainable Northwest. “Not only will this bill address the massive backlog of management needs on our forests, rangelands, and watersheds, but it will do so rooted in collaboration and coordination with local governments and community partners. By tapping into local expertise we can leverage resources, save money, get work done quickly, and maximize local benefit in diverse communities. Sustainable Northwest commends Senators Bennet and Wyden for introduction of the Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act, and for working to maintain and enhance our natural infrastructure in the smartest way possible."

“The Outdoor Restoration Fund is a groundbreaking piece of legislation that centers the work of community collaborative groups in public lands restoration,” said Tyson Bertone-Riggs, Policy Analyst at Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition. “Other valuable programs, such as the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, have built on the success of collaborative efforts, but this bill will provide funds directly community groups to organize and implement collaborative projects. We would like to thank Senators Bennet and Wyden for their efforts to support inclusive, collaborative approaches to meeting the behemoth challenge of forest restoration and the increased threat of wildfire.”

“The National Association of State Foresters congratulates Senator Bennet for proposing this bold legislation. Without an increase in coordinated forest management, wildfires will continue to put our nation’s forests and communities at great risk. Constant and increased collaboration between federal and state agencies, non-government organizations, local communities, and private landowners – bolstered by a sustained and unprecedented federal investment – will make all the difference for our most treasured landscapes,” said Joe Fox, President of the National Association of State Foresters.

"Catastrophic fires, invasive species, and other factors have degraded our forests, rangelands, and watersheds.  The Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act will empower local and Tribal leaders to advance restoration and resilience projects that will create jobs and strengthen local economies.  Restoring these landscapes and watersheds will help ensure vibrant wildlife habitat, clean air and water, and a thriving outdoor recreation economy for generations to come,” said David Willms, senior director of western wildlife and conservation at the National Wildlife Federation.

"The United States has been blessed with abundant land and natural resources, but in our rise to prosperity and global leadership we have also spent heavily from this natural capital. The Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act of 2021 represents a long overdue re-investment in the critical natural infrastructure that sustains us,"  said Lesli Allison, Executive Director of Western Landowners Alliance.

"The future of the rural West will be defined by the inter-relationship between local communities, farmers, ranchers, foresters and constructive conservation groups working together to balance production and conservation. Senator Bennet's bill tangibly moves us forward towards implementing this vision,” said Patrick O'Toole, President, Family Farm Alliance.

“Unplanned wildfire is not a problem that is going to just go away. Catastrophic wildfire costs are significant, to people’s lives, public health, forest carbon, water quality, wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation and tourism, forest products, agricultural lands, and jobs. Current efforts to reduce the risk of uncharacteristically severe wildfire are not commensurate with the scale and complexity of the problem,” said American Forests Senior Vice President for Policy Leslie Jones. “Senator Bennet’s bill is exactly the bold new investment and new approaches that are urgently needed. Progress made over the past two decades in wildfire policies, research, technology and funding has built a foundation that will allow us to now take significant steps forward to protect our natural infrastructure and strengthen our communities.

“As Western communities continue to fight dueling threats of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts of the climate crisis, now is the time to pursue initiatives that will help us rebuild better. The Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act will provide badly needed resources to help Western states mitigate wildfires, restore forests, improve air and water quality, and advance equity, all while pumping billions of dollars into local economies and supporting millions of good-paying jobs; it’s a true win-win. We applaud Senator Bennet for his leadership and look forward to supporting this legislation to build a more resilient West,” said Jon Goldin-Dubois, President of Western Resource Advocates.