Issue Update 3/29/2019

Safe Routes Act Taking Form

Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI-08) has taken the lead on the Safe Routes Act of 2019. FRA began working with the Congressman back in February to develop language that would provide for the safer transport of raw forest materials from the woods to the mill.

The Safe Routes Act would amend federal law with respect to vehicle weight limitations for covered logging vehicles. Under the bill, covered logging vehicles would be able to access the federal interstate highway system at maximum state vehicle weight limits. Covered logging vehicles are trucks transporting raw or unfinished forest products including logs, pulpwood, biomass, or wood chips for a distance not greater than 150 air miles on the Interstate from origin to a storage or processing facility. Covered logging vehicles traveling on the Interstate would be required to meet state legal weight tolerances and vehicle configurations for transporting raw or unfinished forest products. The waiver would apply to the state legal weight tolerance in effect on the day of enactment.

FRA has already met with several Democrats on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to review the bill and request that they consider co-sponsorship. FRA will continue this effort as we seek bipartisan support for the bill. Congressman Gallagher is working with committee staff and we remain optimistic for a bill introduction soon.

The American Logging Council will also be promoting the Safe Routes Act during their fly-in early April.

Senate Disaster Relief Legislation

Tuesday, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) released the text of emergency supplemental appropriations legislation. The legislation provides nearly $13.5 billion for damage caused by recent natural disasters. Included in the measure is $480 million for the Emergency Forest Restoration Program. This program provides cost share payments to landowners for replanting, and site preparation for debris removal. The Senate measure also provides $720 million to repay Forest Service funds that were borrowed to cover the cost of FY 2018 wildfire suppression activities. Funding is also provided to reduce hazardous fuels on federal and non-federal lands, and to prevent an increased risk of significant wildfires from timber resources impacted by the hurricanes. The Senate will likely move the bill next week. A summary of the disaster relief funding can be found here.

DHS Releases Additional H-2B Visas

This morning, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will release an additional 30,000 H-2B visas for the remainder of fiscal year 2019. In addition, this supplemental visa allocation will be available only to applicants who have held H-2B status in at least one of the past three fiscal years (2016, 2017 and 2018).  Details on eligibility and filing requirements will be available in the temporary final rule when it is issued.  The timing on issuance of the temporary rule is unclear at this point, but we will make that information available to you as soon as we receive it.