The Good Neighbor Authority




October 5, 2020
The Good Neighbor Authority
The Good Neighbor Authority allows the Forest Service
 reconstruction, restoration, and repair of
(FS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to
decommissioned National Forest System (NFS) roads
authorize states, counties, and federally recognized Indian
(defined at 36 C.F.R. §212.1) if necessary to implement
tribes to conduct certain projects on federal lands in pursuit
authorized forest restoration services.
of specified land management goals (16 U.S.C. §2113a).
Authorized restoration services also could include timber
The Good Neighbor Authority allows FS and BLM to
harvesting, hazardous fuels treatment, tree planting or
collaborate with these groups to plan and execute cross-
seeding, and other activities. For the purposes of the Good
jurisdictional restoration work. The Good Neighbor
Neighbor Authority, “federal land” does not include
Authority was expanded in 2018, which broadened the
designated wilderness areas, wilderness study areas, or
possible partners and uses of the authority. The Good
areas where removal of vegetation is prohibited by an act of
Neighbor Authority generally has been perceived as
Congress or by presidential proclamation. Construction,
successful, particularly in enhancing state-federal
reconstruction, repair, and other works involving buildings,
relationships and addressing cross-boundary land
public works, and non-NFS roads are not permitted.
restoration needs. Some provisions of the 2018 expansion,
particularly those regarding treatment of timber revenues,
GNAs may be structured in several ways. The parties may
have generated concern. This In Focus provides background
enter into a cooperative agreement or contract called a
information, statistics on use, and a brief overview of the
Master Agreement (MA), which outlines the general scope
issues, including those related to timber sales and revenues. of the GNA and describes the collaborative framework
Legislative History
between the federal agency and the partner. MAs serve as
an umbrella for Supplemental Project Agreements (SPAs),
Congress originally authorized the Good Neighbor
which outline the specific terms and conditions for
Authority in 2001 as a pilot program for FS lands in
implementation of individual projects. Partners also may
Colorado (P.L. 106-291, §331) and later expanded the pilot
enter into stand-alone agreements, which fulfill both
to include BLM lands in Colorado and FS lands in Utah
functions for the purpose of a single project. GNA duration
(P.L. 108-447, §§336-337). In 2014, Congress passed the
is not addressed in statute.
Good Neighbor Authority permanently into law (P.L. 113-
79, §8206). The permanent authority applied only to states.
There is no limit to the number or kind of GNAs a partner
Congress also temporarily extended and expanded a version
may enter into, including entering into multiple MAs.
of the law in 2014 (P.L. 113-76, §417), which differed in its
Although GNAs may allow for any number of authorized
requirements and was superseded by the permanent
activities, many GNAs emphasize a specific project type or
authorization.
purpose. For example, a state’s Department of Forestry and
Department of Fish and Game may each enter into separate
In 2018, Congress expanded the authority to include
MAs with FS. The state’s Department of Forestry might
counties, groups of counties, and federally recognized
then enter into SPAs pursuant to its MA to perform
Indian tribes (referred to as “counties” and “tribes” herein).
hazardous fuels reduction or commercial timber harvests on
Congress also authorized states to retain funds from timber
FS lands. The state’s Department of Fish and Game might
sales made under the Good Neighbor Authority, subject to
then enter into SPAs under its MA to perform habitat
certain conditions (P.L. 115-334, §8624). Congress also
improvement projects on FS lands. In addition, the state’s
authorized certain road restoration activities (P.L. 115-141,
Department of Water Resources might enter into a stand-
§212).
alone agreement with FS to perform a watershed restoration
Good Neighbor Agreements
project.
The Good Neighbor Authority allows states, counties, and
Statistics
tribes to enter into a Good Neighbor Agreement (GNA)
Since the Good Neighbor Authority’s initial passage, states
with FS or BLM to perform forest, rangeland, and
have increasingly adopted use of GNAs with both FS and
watershed restoration work on the federal land managed by
BLM, and the majority of states have entered into GNAs.
those agencies. Authorized restoration services include
Although the data below are not directly equivalent, FS has


far more GNAs than BLM.
treating insect- and disease-infested trees;
 reducing hazardous fuels;

FS reports the number of active GNAs, which are GNAs
any other activities to restore or improve forest,
that are in effect in a given fiscal year, regardless of when
rangeland, and watershed health, including fish and
they were initiated. In FY2019, FS had 57 active MAs with
wildlife habitat; and
36 states and 100 SPAs, compared with 44 active MAs with
34 states in FY2018. FS had 78 active stand-alone
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link to page 2 The Good Neighbor Authority
agreements in FY2019, compared with 65 in FY2018.
for counties or tribes. Because timber sale revenues from
States have taken a variety of approaches to GNAs with FS,
states are not returned to FS or BLM, those revenues are not
including using only stand-alone agreements, entering into
applied to calculations of FS or BLM revenue-sharing
multiple master agreements and SPAs, using all agreement
payments.
types, and other combinations. One county has entered into
a GNA with FS in FY2019. No federally recognized tribes
In addition, in 2018, Congress specified that any payment
have entered into GNAs with FS to date.
made by a county to FS or BLM under a GNA project
would not be subject to applicable revenue-sharing laws.
FS reports the number of GNAs by project purpose. In its
Because counties are not authorized to retain GNA timber
FY2021 budget justification, FS specifies that there were 67
sale revenues, such revenues must be remitted to FS or
agreements for forest health, 39 for watershed management,
BLM. In this case, the payment is not considered to be
28 for wildlife management, 27 for timber management, 18
revenue for the purpose of applicable revenue-sharing laws
for ecosystem management, and 18 for fire management.
pertaining to FS and BLM lands. No such provision exists
FS also reports there were 47 GNAs for other purposes,
for states or tribes. It is unclear to CRS whether any such
which include those GNAs that span multiple project
payment made by a tribal partner would count toward
purposes.
revenue-sharing purposes.
BLM reports the number of new GNAs each fiscal year; the
Issues
total number of active GNAs in a fiscal year may be larger,
The expansion of the Good Neighbor Authority to tribal
as GNAs entered into in previous fiscal years may continue
and county governments significantly expanded the
to be in effect. BLM also reports GNA data by BLM state
potential partners for use of the authority. To date, few
office, which can represent a geographic area of more than
counties or tribes have made use of the expanded authority.
one state. Eleven BLM state offices, representing 12 states,
The lack of authorization to retain timber sale revenues may
have entered into GNAs. As of FY2019, all GNAs with
have decreased the attractiveness of GNAs for counties and
BLM were stand-alone agreements. BLM entered into 26
tribes, compared with states. Other factors influencing
new stand-alone agreements in FY2019, compared with 8
whether counties and tribes enter into GNAs might include
new GNAs in FY2018. BLM does not report what kinds of
funding, staffing, or other resource capability concerns, as
projects have been undertaken under GNAs on BLM lands
well as the short amount of time that counties and tribes
or whether federally recognized tribes or counties have
have been authorized partners (since 2018).
entered into GNAs with BLM to date.
Several issues with the Good Neighbor Authority relate to
Timber Sales and Revenues
the treatment of timber sale revenues. Some may prefer that
Partners may conduct commercial forest product sales (such
the authority to retain timber sale revenues be given to all
as timber sales) under GNAs. FS and BLM retain the
possible GNA partners. Some also may prefer to have the
responsibility to comply with all applicable federal laws for
revenue from GNA projects subject to FS and BLM
federal timber sales, such as laws requiring reforestation,
revenue-sharing laws. In contrast, others may contend that
brush removal, or other treatments of timber sale areas. FS
allowing timber sale revenues to be retained by partners,
and BLM must approve and mark any silvicultural
while also counted toward revenue-sharing payments, could
prescriptions (e.g., what trees may be cut). The amount of
constitute a double payment if a partner were to receive a
FS timber sold under GNAs has increased from 14.4
revenue-sharing payment. In addition, some may prefer that
million board feet in FY2016 to 182.6 million board feet in
the federal government retain at least some portion of the
FY2019 (see Table 1). BLM does not report timber sale
revenue derived from the sale of a federal resource. Further,
data under GNAs .
because FS and BLM both use timber receipts to fund a
variety of resource management activities, the loss of
Table 1.Forest Service Timber Volume Sold Under a
revenue associated with GNA timber sales may mean less
GNA, Million Board Feet (MMBF)
funding is available for those purposes.

FY2016
FY2017
FY2018
FY2019
Neither FS nor BLM receive a direct line item
Sold
appropriation for implementing GNAs. Rather, the agencies
14.4
92.8
89.2
182.6
MMBF
may use any available funds appropriated for the specified
project purpose. Any FS or BLM funding is negotiated for
Source: Email from Forest Service (FS) to CRS, May 14, 2020.
individual GNAs. Partners may also provide funding,
Note: FS reported that there was no timber volume sold under a
although no partner contributions are required. Some
Good Neighbor Agreement (GNA) prior to FY2016.
partners may support providing direct funding specifically
for the Good Neighbor Authority, and others may contend
Prior to 2018, treatment of timber sale revenues was not
that the current funding mechanisms are sufficient.
directly addressed by the Good Neighbor Authority’s
authorizing legislation. In 2018, Congress specified that,
Anne A. Riddle, Analyst in Natural Resources Policy
through FY2023, funds received by a state through the sale
of timber under a GNA may be retained and used by the
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state on additional GNA projects. No such provision exists


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The Good Neighbor Authority


Disclaimer
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