2014 Farm Bill Amendments
2014 Farm Bill, Title VIII (Forestry), Section 8204 (Insect & Disease Infestation)
Title VIII, Section 8204 of the Agriculture Act of 2014 (also referred to as 2014 Farm Bill) amended Title VI of the Healthy Forest Restoration Act (HFRA) of 2003 (16 U.S.C. 6591 et seq.) by adding section 602 (Designation of Treatment Areas) and section 603 (Administrative Review) to address qualifying Insect & Disease infestations on National Forest System lands.
HFRA Title VI, Section 602: Designation of Treatment Areas
Not later than 60 days after enactment of the 2014 Farm Bill, if requested by a Governor of a State, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture was required to designate as part of an insect and disease treatment program at least one landscape area (such as a sub-watershed) in at least one national forest in each State that is experiencing an insect and disease epidemic. These designated areas are often referred to as "priority landscapes". The Secretary may designate additional areas to address insect and disease threats after the initial 60 day period. Click here for more information about insect and disease area designations by state.
An area may be designated as part of an insect and disease treatment program if it meets at least one of the following criteria. The area is:
- Experiencing forest health decline based on annual forest health surveys;
- At risk of experiencing substantially increased tree mortality based on the most recent Forest Health Protection Insect and Disease Risk Map; or
- Contains hazard trees that pose an imminent risk to public infrastructure, health, or safety.
Under section 602(d), priority projects that reduce the risk or extent of, or increase the resilience to, insect or disease infestation may be carried out in designated areas in accordance with sections 102(b)(c)(d), 104, 105 and 106 of the HFRA, which provides for expedited NEPA reviews, pre-decisional objection review, and guidance on judicial review. This authority is available for projects for which scoping has been initiated by September 30, 2018.
This section also authorizes, but does not appropriate, up to $200 million annually through 2024 to carry out projects under section 602.
HFRA Title VI, Section 603: Administrative Review
Under section 603, an insect and disease project may be categorically excluded from documentation in an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement and exempt from pre-decisional objections. You may hear this Categorical Exclusion (CE) referred to as the "Farm Bill CE" or "Insect & Disease CE".
Section 603 imposes limitations on the use of this CE. A project that uses this CE:
- May not exceed 3,000 treated acres;
- Shall be located in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), or if outside the WUI in an area in condition classes 2 or 3 in Fire Regime Groups I, II, or III; and
- May not include the establishment of permanent roads, but may allow for necessary maintenance and repairs on existing permanent roads and may allow for the construction of temporary roads (where not otherwise prohibited) for the purposes of carrying out this section. Temporary roads would have to be decommissioned no later than three years after the date of project completion.
In order to use this CE, projects must:
- Maximize old growth and large trees to the extent the trees promote stands that are resilient to insect and disease threats;
- Consider the best available scientific information to maintain or restore the ecological integrity, including maintaining or restoring structure, function, composition and connectivity; and
- Be developed and implemented through a collaborative process that includes multiple interested persons representing diverse interests and is transparent and non-exclusive or meets the requirements of a resource advisory committee under subsections (c) through (f) of section 205 of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. Projects may also carry out part of a proposal that complies with the eligibility requirements of a Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program under section 4003(b) of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009.
The CE may not be used in areas that are:
- Congressionally designated Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas;
- Areas where the removal of vegetation is restricted or prohibited by statute or by Presidential proclamation; and
- Areas where the activities described above would be inconsistent with the applicable Land and Resource Management Plan.
Projects using the CE must be in compliance with the applicable land and resource management plan. Public notice and scoping shall be conducted; however, projects using the CE are not subject to an administrative review process.