Cantwell, House and Senate Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Timber Innovation Act

Legislation will help spur economic development through the construction of tall wood buildings

March 8, 2017

Download the bill text here.

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, ranking member of the Senator Energy and Natural Resources Committee, along with Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and several of her Senate and House colleagues, reintroduced the Timber Innovation Act – bipartisan, bicameral legislation that aims to find new and innovative uses for wood as a building material. The legislation will accelerate the research and development of wood for use in construction projects – such as cross-laminated timber – focusing on the construction of buildings more than 85 feet in height.

Devastating fires across Washington state have cost billions to fight. Innovative timber products and long-term timber contracts could help us achieve better forest health while bolstering local economies,” Sen. Cantwell said. “This is something the forest products industry has shown us time and again: new innovations and technologies can create new markets for wood and assist us in maintaining healthy working forests.”

While wood products have been an integral part of construction for centuries, most wood buildings do not exceed three to four stories in height. However, with recent developments in wood products engineering alongside other new technologies, it is now possible to expand the use of wood into larger construction projects.

Building on that momentum, the Timber Innovation Act would incentivize investment through the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Products Lab and American colleges and universities to conduct research and development on new methods for the construction of wood buildings. Additionally, the bill would support ongoing efforts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to further support the use of wood products as a building material for tall buildings.

Cantwell was joined by U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

U.S. Representatives Suzan DelBene (Wash.-01) and Glenn Thompson (Pa.-05) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Advancing tall wood building construction through the Timber Innovation Act is a win for working families and our environment,” DelBene said. “Technological advancements in cross-laminated timber have made it easier for us to support healthy forests, wildlife habitats and rural economies dependent on forest products. Encouraging the use of green building materials instead of building materials dependent on fossil fuels reduces greenhouse gases creating a cleaner, healthier environment for future generations.”

The House bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Representatives Abraham (La.-05), Bonamici (Ore.-01), DeFazio (Ore.-04), Harper (Miss.-03), Kilmer (Wash.-06), Kuster (N.H.-02), Larsen (Wash.-02), McMorris Rodgers (Wash.-05), Palazzo (Miss.-04), Schrader (Ore.-05), Thompson (Pa.-05), Welch (Vt.-AL), and Westerman (Ark.-04).

The bipartisan bill is supported by Weyerhaeuser, National Wildlife Federation and the American Wood Council, in addition to more than 100 other stakeholders.

Adrian Blocker, Weyerhaeuser senior vice president of wood products: “There is enormous potential for mass timber and the Timber Innovation Act takes an important step forward to advance this new technology. While wood is one of the oldest building materials around, new technology utilizing engineered mass timber panels and wood-based building systems creates new possibilities for wood construction.”

Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation: “Healthy, well-managed forests can provide important habitat for wildlife, restore watershed health and help store carbon. By supporting the development of new markets for saw timber, we will help landowners keep their forests as forests, while avoiding global warming pollution from conventional building materials.”

Robert Glowinski, president and CEO of the American Wood Council: “Mass timber buildings have existed for centuries, from Japanese wood pagodas built in the 7th century that still stand to the North American heavy timber structures that have stood for the last 100 years. The United States has an opportunity to bring new, sustainable mass timber technology to our construction industry, and the Timber Innovation Act directs technical assistance and research components already in place. Building construction using wood and mass timber products directly supports jobs in areas of rural America that have yet to recover from the recession and would lessen our dependence on fossil-fuel intensive alternatives, so having the federal government encourage further development of this emerging construction technology stands to benefit and enhance both infrastructure development and putting people to work. AWC thanks Senator Stabenow, and all of the cosponsors, for leading on the Timber Innovation Act.”