– Rep. Martin Causer (R-Turtlepoint) has introduced two measures related to the forestry industry, including one that aims to bring transparency to the process of establishing forest conservation easements.
House Bill 2148
would establish several requirements that must be met when public funding is involved in an easement purchase. Among the proposed requirements are public notification that an easement is proposed, compliance with a sustainable forest management plan, availability of the land for outdoor recreational activities such as public hunting, and approval of the easement by the Hardwoods Development Council within the Department of Agriculture.
“Forest conservation easements can be a valuable tool for conservation efforts. However, when public resources are used to purchase these easements, taxpayers deserve to know the details of the project before the easement is executed,” Causer said. “The Commonwealth has long had a process in place for designating agriculture conservation easements; we should absolutely be doing the same for forest conservation easements.”
In 2018, the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) loaned $50 million to Lyme Timber Company to help the company purchase more than 60,000 acres of private forestland in five counties. As part of the agreement, the company placed more than 9,000 acres into a permanent working forest conservation easement with the option for the Commonwealth to purchase additional easements on the remaining 50,000 acres over the next seven years. There was virtually no public notice of the project until it was approved by PENNVEST.
In addition to the easement bill, Causer introduced House Bill 2149 which would expand membership on the Hardwoods Development Council within the Department of Agriculture. The bill would add a logger and a forester to the council, provide for representation from all three hardwood utilization groups (HUGs), and guarantee representation on the council by the largest HUG, the Allegheny Hardwood Utilization Group.
Both bills were referred to the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee for consideration.
Representative Martin T. Causer
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Patricia A. Hippler