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Ag Secretary and EPA Administrator Tour Working Forest, Talk Importance of Private Forest Landowners
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On Friday, July 7th Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt met with an array of forest and forestry advocates including Scott Jones, CEO of the Forest Landowners Association (FLA) at the property of Earl and Wanda Barrs. Earl is a longtime board member of the FLA. During the meeting private forest landowners and representatives from state and national forest landowner groups shared with the Secretary and Administrator the story of owning and managing working forest lands and the impact that state and federal regulation can have on those efforts.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue (left) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt met with a constituency of forest landowners and representatives from forest landowning associations at the Gully Branch Tree Farm near Cochran, Georgia last Friday.  Photo courtesy of U.S. EPA.

“This is really the first time in a long time that the administrator of the EPA has shown this much interest in and appreciation for private forest landowners,” said Jones. “It was just so exciting and gratifying to hear Administrator Pruitt use words like ‘partner’ as he was talking about the agency and our members.”

Also in attendance were David Tenny, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Forest Landowners and Andres Villegas, president and CEO of the Georgia Forestry Association. Together Jones and his colleagues worked to put private forest landowners into context for both Secretary Perdue and Administrator Pruitt.

“More than half of the forested acres in this country are owned privately,” said Jones. “Together, the environmental benefits provided to the entire country by these privately owned forests is just enormous. This is well known to Secretary Perdue of course, but to be able to share the scope of private forestlands with Administrator Pruitt is just huge for our association and our members.”

Discussion during the visit touched on the importance that strong markets play in both supporting active and robust forest management as well as manufacturing jobs downstream in forest products sector. Together, forestry and the forest products sector employ nearly 2.5 million people with an annual payroll approaching $100 billion. “Forest products are in the top 10 list of manufacturing revenues by segment in 46 states,” said Jones. “That is incredible and all of that economic activity starts in the woods with the landowners.”

Discussion also touched on the carbon neutrality of biomass, the ability of the forestry sector to put people to work in rural America and the importance of emerging new markets including cross-laminated timber.

 

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