U.S. Forest Service, DNR sign Good Neighbor Authority agreement

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EAST LANSING, MI – In a move that will boost collaborative management of Michigan’s forest lands, the U.S. Forest Service today signed a Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) master agreement with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).United States Forest Service

The completed master agreement between the Hiawatha, Ottawa and Huron-Manistee National Forests in Michigan and the DNR is among the first signed Good Neighbor Authority agreements in the country.

The master agreement is a broad pact allowing the state to supplement the work being done by Forest Service staff on the national forests. Supplemental project agreements will be signed by each forest in the coming weeks to more specifically identify the nature of the work to be completed in the first year of the master agreement.

“Good Neighbor Authority projects will expand our capacity to achieve forest management outcomes described in the forests’ 2006 Land and Resource Management Plans,” said U.S. Forest Service Eastern Regional Forester Kathleen Atkinson. “I’m excited to have a new tool that allows us to work together in unprecedented ways into the future.”

The 2014 Farm Bill authorized Good Neighbor Authority for the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Good Neighbor Authority allows the Forest Service to enter into agreements or contracts with states that enable the states to perform forest, rangeland and watershed restoration services on national forest system lands.

“This authority is a significant way for the Forest Service to partner with state agencies to make improvements to the land, benefiting local communities and their economies with the timber receipts generated from Good Neighbor Authority,” Atkinson said.

Bill O’Neill, Michigan’s state forester and chief of the DNR Forest Resources Division, agreed.

“By working together, we’re better poised to meet the goals and objectives outlined by Governor Snyder at the 2013 Forest Products Summit, which will help increase the industry’s economic impact on state and regional economies from $14 billion to $20 billion,” he said. “This partnership will allow for more timber sales, which means more work for local loggers and other forest products companies and great news for the state’s economy.

“Additionally, this agreement continues to foster a positive collaborative relationship with the U.S. Forest Service to address land management on a landscape basis. We very much appreciate the willingness of our federal partners to undertake this pilot program in Michigan. This program is a tribute to the leadership of the U.S. Forest Service to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of forest management.”

This partnership will maintain and create healthy forest conditions as called for in the national forests’ forest plans, while providing additional wood fiber to Michigan’s vital forest products industry. A portion of the receipts from the timber sales will reimburse the state for its costs to do the work, with remaining funds available to conduct additional restoration activities on the forest.

The Good Neighbor Authority provides the opportunity to work across jurisdictional boundaries and sustainably manage forest lands in a mixed-ownership setting. It leverages state resources to increase capacity to accomplish work on national forest system lands. It also helps strengthen federal and state partnerships.

“We are fortunate to have the Michigan DNR and its employees ready and willing to assist us in achieving important conservation goals on national forests, in addition to the important work they already do on state-managed, county and private lands,” Atkinson said. “I am looking forward to working even more closely with the DNR on a variety of conservation projects.”

To learn more about Michigan’s state forest management and planning, visit www.michigan.gov/forestry.

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