Monday, November 15, President Joseph Biden passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Infrastructure Act), which was passed by the Senate in August and by the U.S. House on November 5. The $1.2 trillion package contains several provisions important to forest landowners and the forest product supply chain.
The following details have been compiled from reports by the National Alliance of Forest Owners, Forest Resources Association and the Forest Landowner Association. As more information becomes available, the Georgia Forestry Association’s Government Affairs team will provide additional information to members.
The Infrastructure Act included several major funding provisions important to GFA members, including:
- Workforce Development in the Transportation Sector
- Authorizes grants to educational institutions or state departments of transportation, in partnership with industry, to develop, test, and review new curricula and education programs to train individuals at all levels of the transportation workforce.
- Young Driver Pilot Program
- Authorization for a pilot program allowing young drivers (between 18-21 years old) to operate trucks interstate after completing rigorous operational and safety training.
- Currently, younger drivers may drive within a state’s borders but may not cross state lines.
- For the last few years, the provision, known as the DRIVE Safe Act, has been a priority of truck-dependent industries as a way of attracting younger drivers to the profession.
- Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) Fee Pilot Program
- $125 million for grants that would enable creation of pilot VMT programs to collect data on whether a VMT is a viable option for replacing the gas tax to fund highway programs.
- Efficient Manufacturing
- $2.1 billion in assistance to help manufacturers improve energy, water and material efficiency, load management and onsite generation to reduce waste and pollution while increasing profit.
- Support for Sawmills in Close Proximity to Federal Land
- Language creating a new federal system for subsidizing sawmills and other wood processing facilities, along with $400 million in new financial assistance.
- The provision specifies that “close proximity” to a sawmill would become a factor for agencies to consider when funding federal land restoration.
- One of the ongoing challenges to making thinning projects economical is access to processing facilities.
- Existing wood processing infrastructure is not in close proximity to many federal forests that desperately need active management.
- $12 million (for each fiscal year FY 2022—FY 2026) for the Community Wood Energy Program and the Wood Innovation Grants Program for the U.S. Forest Service to provide grants creating incentives for increased use of biomass from National Forest Service lands.
- $3.3 Billion for Wildfire Risk Reduction (Section 40803)
This section includes a broad range of funding for Wildfire Risk Reduction, most notably:
- $500 million for mechanical thinning and timber harvesting in an ecologically appropriate manner that focuses, to the extent practicable, on small-diameter trees
- $500 million for prescribed fires and related activities
- $100 million for the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program to encourage science-based ecosystem restoration of priority landscapes
- $2.1 Billion for Ecosystem Restoration (Section 40804)
This section includes a broad range of funding for Ecosystem Restoration related activities, namely:
- $400 million in financial assistance to facilities that purchase and process byproducts from ecosystem restoration projects
- $200 million to states for implementing restoration projects on federal land pursuant to Good Neighbor Agreements
- $200 million for invasive species detection, prevention, and eradication on federal and non-federal land
- $200 million in national revegetation effort on Federal and non-Federal land, including to implement the National Seed Strategy for Rehabilitation and Restoration
- $50 million in grants to states to establish rental programs for portable skidder bridges to minimize stream bed disturbance on non-federal land and federal land
- $1.5 billion allocated for State and Private Forestry through the U.S. Department of Agriculture via the Forest Service over five years. Specifically, funding includes:
- $718 million to carry out activities related to Wildfire Risk Reduction (section 40803) and Ecosystem Restoration (section 40804)
- $500 million for grants to at-risk communities for wildfire mitigation activities
- $88 million for State Fire Assistance
- $20 million for Volunteer Fire Assistance