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October 03, 2023

King Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Improve Forest Health, Support Rural Maine Economies

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King, alongside Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), have introduced bipartisan legislation to improve forest health and support Maine’s rural economy. The Timber Innovation Act for Building Rural Communities Act would require the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish a method where it can accurately monitor and measure the carbon impacts of forest management. It would also set up several grant programs to support Maine wood products businesses.

In 2018, Senator King was key in ensuring the Timber Innovation Act, bipartisan and bicameral legislation that aims to find new and innovative uses for wood as a building material, was included in that year’s Farm Bill. The forestry and forest products sector is one of Maine's strongest industries, producing 2.5 times the concentration that would be expected for the state’s size.

“Maine’s forest products industry is inseparable from our state’s history, culture, and economic success,” said Senator Angus King. “The Timber Innovation Act for Building Rural Communities Act would build on this legacy and provide both funding and infrastructure to responsibly track the health of our forests, and all those Maine businesses reliant on their longevity. If anyone knows the value of planting seeds for a prosperous future, it’s Maine’s forest products industry that is out there working the forests for the continued success of our communities and our state economy. Thanks to my bipartisan partners in Congress, we have the ability to build on this legacy as a leader in American forestry.”

“As the Senator was a key voice and co-sponsor in the previous Timber Innovation Act in 2018, we feel it is incredibly important to have his leadership and voice on the newest bill. The Wood Innovation Grant is included in the Act, and the expansion of that program in 2018 has had an incredibly positive impact on innovation in the forest products industry,” said Alex Ingraham of Pingree Associations. “Allowing for more efficient processes, and innovations to be implemented while also providing key dollars for research and development. The language of this act also answers the next step from the TIA in 2018, where market demand was built for mass timber. The demand is now there, new projects are being announced daily, but we are lacking manufacturing and more importantly data correlation from the forest to the products, particularly for mass timber. This bill helps create the path to building those answers and creating a more climate friendly built environment.”

The Timber Innovation for Building Rural Communities Act would:

  1. Require the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in consultation with Tribes, State Foresters, and private sector partners, to establish a platform for measuring, monitoring, verifying and reporting data about the carbon impacts from forest management and wood products. 
  2. Reduce the matching requirement for the existing Wood Innovation Grant Program and direct that priority be given to proposed projects in communities with higher-than-average unemployment, that recognize or enhance carbon reduction strategies in building design, or report on the resilience and economic benefits of the proposal.
  3. Establish the Wood Building Accelerator Grant Program to fund programs that support the critical elements of designing and building with wood, including traditional wood products, mass timber and other advanced wood products.
  4. Establish the Rural Infrastructure and Building Pilot Program to fund pilot programs that demonstrate the use of innovative wood products in the construction and renovation of rural infrastructure and building projects, such as affordable, modular housing.

As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator King has been a national leader in efforts to support Maine’s forest products industry with efforts to address climate change, support the health of ecosystems and bolster sustainable wood production. This summer, during a Senate Energy and Natural Resource hearing, Senator King pushed for proactive forest management. During his questions, he highlighted the growing risk of severe wildfires and pressed the Director of the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Wildfire Land on solutions to reduce these risks. Earlier in the year, Senator King introduced bipartisan legislation that would establish a “Future of Forests” panel tasked with making recommendations to secure the health of America’s forests.


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