By Greg Pilchak
This Tuesday, May 24th, the House Appropriations Committee released the fiscal year 2017 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill (see page 84). This draft legislation includes funding for the USDA Forest Service and various other independent and related agencies. The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee marked up the bill on Wednesday, May 25th. The bill, however, will not be publicly available in its entirety until after the full committee hearing in the weeks following the Memorial Day recess.
While exact amounts for State and Private Forestry programs are not yet available, early indications are nonetheless encouraging for most of NASF’s recommended levels of appropriations. Whereas the administration’s budget proposed $234 million for State and Private Forestry, the draft bill calls for $244 million. More specifically, the administration requested $62 million for the Forest Legacy Program, while the draft bill only delegates $55 million. The upshot is that the rest of the State and Private Forestry suite – the Forest Health Management, Forest Stewardship, Landscape Scale Restoration, and Urban and Community Forestry programs - may receive more funding than the Administration initially proposed. These programs help to support America’s economy and environment by leveraging state and private investments to protect the nearly 500 million acres of non-federal forestland in the United States.
The draft legislation matched the Administration's request for $78 and $13 million for the State Fire Assistance and Volunteer Fire Assistance programs, respectively. These programs provide crucial financial and technical assistance to states and local fire departments for wildland fire prevention, detection, and suppression. In addition to helping ensure that the nation’s first responders are prepared, the program provides funding to complete hazardous fuels treatments designed to protect local communities from wildland fire and reduce the risk of future fires. Lastly, the draft legislation offers $77 million to fund the Forest Inventory and Analysis for a comprehensive assessment of the health and sustainability of the nation’s forests across all ownerships.
Read more about NASF’s appropriations recommendations.