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Oregon lawmakers try again on 'Timber Innovation Act'

Wyden, Merkley also seek land, water conservation

WASHINGTON - Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with Reps.Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader, all D-Ore., have joined Senate and House colleagues in reintroducing the bipartisan Timber Innovation Act, which aims to find new and innovative uses for wood as building material.

“Oregon’s rural economy depends upon innovative thinking around the challenges and opportunities facing our timber mills and manufacturing businesses,” Merkley said. “Oregon has a powerful opportunity to be a leader in cross-laminated timber and mass plywood panels. This legislation supports our rural economy, while also promoting lower-carbon, more sustainable tall wood building construction in urban Oregon.”

“This bill represents the can-do Oregon way by focusing on creative solutions that can generate jobs throughout our state in timber, manufacturing and construction,” Wyden said. “Oregonians should be justifiably proud of pioneering the path toward a more sustainable future that includes the use of wood in building materials.”

“Harnessing the potential of timber is a win-win-win for Oregonians,” Bonamici said. “Our first-class research institutions and scientists are leading the way toward a greener and more robust economy. Rural communities have the opportunity to generate more jobs and value from their natural resources. And Oregonians benefit from low-carbon, more sustainable construction materials that create beautiful buildings. I am proud to champion innovative timber products and will continue to look for ways to grow this exciting new industry.”

“I’m proud Oregon has led the charge in the research, development and production of advanced wood products,” DeFazio said. “Investment in innovation in our region’s timber industry will create high-paying jobs for Oregonians both today and for generations to come.”

“The timber industry creates good paying jobs for more than one million people across the country,” Schrader said. “Oregon’s rural communities are uniquely positioned to benefit from innovation in the sustainable and green building sector. This bill will help promote and advance research in wood products to revolutionize the building industry which in turn will help our timber communities not simply sustain, but grow.”

Recent developments in wood products engineering have made wood a viable material for larger construction projects.

The bicameral, bipartisan Timber Innovation Act would accelerate the research and development of wood for use in construction projects, focusing on the construction of buildings over 85 feet in height. It would incentivize investment through the National Forest Products Lab and American universities to conduct research and development on new methods for the construction of wood buildings.

Oregon is a trailblazer in innovative use of wood: DR Johnson Lumber Co. in Riddle, Ore., is the first manufacturer in the country certified to produce cross-laminated timber panels for tall wood building construction. Freres Lumber Co. in Lyons, Ore., has created a mass plywood panel — a large, veneer-based finished wood panel for tall wood building construction. And Oregon State University’s National Center for Advanced Wood Products Manufacturing and Design is at the cutting edge of research and development, promoting sustainable timber-based manufacturing and expanding the market for mass timber.

The bill would also support ongoing efforts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to further encourage the use of wood products as a building material for tall buildings.

In addition to support from Senate and House Democrats and Republicans, the bill is supported by Weyerhaeuser, National Wildlife Federation, the American Wood Council, and more than 100 other stakeholders.

Meanwhile, Wyden and Jeff Merkley, as well as 20 other senators, have introduced bipartisan legislation to permanently authorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund which conserves and promotes access to America’s national parks, forests and public lands.

After expiring for the first time in 50 years, Congress voted in December 2015 to extend the program’s authorization for only three years.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has proven to be a spectacular investment for the places that make this country special, for the people who benefit from access to those places for hunting, fishing and camping, and for the local communities that host these truly remarkable resources,” Wyden said. “Fully funding this program will allow communities across the country to continue protecting our nation’s public lands and providing access for the outdoor activities Americans enjoy.”

“Growing up in Oregon, I couldn’t imagine life without access to camping, hiking, fishing and more,” Merkley said. “The projects made possible by the Land and Water Conservation Fund have impacted countless lives, and we owe it to future generations to pay it forward by fully funding and making permanent this essential program. Public lands that are open and accessible to all are a key part of our recreation economy, and even more importantly, of who we are as Americans. We must keep working together to preserve special places and promote recreation opportunities. This bipartisan bill is a great example of how we can do just that.”

Outdoor recreation drives economic growth, creates jobs and produces significant revenues for local communities. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the key federal investment in a sector that has supported more than 6 million American jobs and contributes $600 billion annually to our nation’s economy.

The LWCF, established in 1965, funds the purchase and development of parks, wildlife refuges and recreation resources of federal, state, and local lands and facilities. The program provides funding for additions to national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests and other federal public lands used for outdoor recreation and habitat preservation.

The LWCF also funds important projects that protect drinking water resources, sensitive habitat for fish and wildlife, and private forestland. The state component of the program provides matching grants to states and localities for investments in outdoor recreation facilities, such as parks and playfields.

In addition to Wyden and Merkley, original co-sponsors of the bill include Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Richard Burr, R-N.C., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Ben Cardin, D-Md., Robert Casey, D-Pa., Chris Coons, D-Del., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Al Franken ,D-Minn., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Joe Manchin, D-W.V., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Jon Tester, D-Mont.


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