Rep. Causer Introduces Bill To Make It Harder To Buy Forest Conservation Easements With Public Funding
On January 16, Rep. Martin Causer (R-McKean), Majority Chair of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, introduced House Bill 2148 to establish new limits on the nature and approval of forest conservation easements purchased with federal, state or local funding.
Among the provisions in the bill are--
-- Approval of all publicly funded forest conservation easements by the Hardwoods Development Council;
-- Approval by the General Assembly of a forest conservation easement conveyed to the state or an instrumentality of the state; and
-- All lands subject to forest conservation easements must be open to the public for recreation.
Legislation introduced at the same time-- House Bill 2149-- would add a logger and a forester to the Hardwoods Development Council and make other changes to the Council members.
Rep. Causer said the legislation responds to a 2018 transaction where the PA Infrastructure Investment Authority loaned $50 million to Lyme Timber Company to help the company purchase more than 60,000 acres of private forestland in five counties.
As part of the agreement, the company placed more than 9,000 acres into a permanent working forest conservation easement with the option for the Commonwealth to purchase additional easements on the remaining 50,000 acres over the next seven years.
The House Agriculture Committee held a hearing on this transaction in March of 2018 where the Committee members questioned with a $50 million loan to buy forest land was the best use of PennVEST funding.
Four members of the General Assembly sit on the PennVEST board and act on all grants and loans issued by PennVEST.
The bills were referred to the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.
[Posted: January 16, 2020]
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