Kelly Praised For Forestry Program
By The Packet
On Wednesday, May 17, U.S. Representative Trent Kelly introduced the Forest Conservation Easement Program (FCEP) Act of 2023 (H.R. 3424) with the goal of including the legislation in the 2023 Farm Bill. The bipartisan legislation will fill a critical gap and help keep private forestland intact and sustainably managed for timber and wildlife, allowing the lands to continue providing numerous benefits to rural and urban communities.
“We greatly appreciate the support of Congressman Kelly in authoring this most important piece of legislation for our great state and nation. He is a fellow outdoorsman and has championed the conservation and sportsmen’s agenda since he was elected to Congress in 2015,” said Sandy Williams, president of Wildlife Mississippi. “The FCEP will aid in producing more well-paying manufacturing jobs, supplying wood and fiber for forest products, and protecting wildlife habitat”.
“The first Congressional District of Mississippi has had a long history of promoting forest conservation and management. The first effort was by former first district Congressman L.Q. C. Lamar, who was the architect of the Timberland Reserve Bill in 1891. It birthed the national forest system with 36 million acres and added 1 million acres to Yellowstone National Park; Lamar Valley in the park is named in his honor. The most recent is by Congressman Kelly whose leadership resulted in the Forest Conservation Easement Program being introduced in the U.S. Congress. We are fortunate to have Congressman Kelly looking out for the interests of Mississippi on this and so many fronts,” continued the Wildlife Mississippi president.
If passed and signed into law, the legislation will prevent the conversion of forests into non-forest areas by offering reliable funding to purchase development rights from willing private landowners. FCEP has the potential to offer new resources to meet various needs, which is especially critical at this time, and fills a vital funding gap for forestland.
“Mississippi’s future is in forestland,” says Camille Green, conservation policy coordinator at Wildlife Mississippi. “From filtering drinking water, providing wildlife habitat, supporting thousands of jobs, and everything in between; securing our remaining forestland for the next generation should be a priority for us all and I applaud Congressman Kelly for his leadership in ensuring Mississippi’s future.”
Forestry is of vital importance to Mississippi. Forest industries are located throughout the state and employ 25% of the manufacturing workforce, directly supporting 70,000 jobs that provide $1.8 billion in wages, and contribute $12.79 billion to the state economy. Additionally, Mississippi forests provide numerous public benefits such as clean air and water, habitat for numerous species including wild turkey and white-tailed deer, buffering military bases, and according to the US Forest Service, sequester more carbon than any other state in the Nation. Despite these benefits, a multitude of pressures threatens Mississippi forests. With 79% of forestland or 17 million acres, being privately owned across the state, the FCEP allows Mississippians to secure our forests for the next generation. A healthy environment makes good economic sense for Mississippi and the nation.