After over a decade of hard work on and off Capitol Hill, Congress is moving forward with a permanent wildfire funding fix and a set of crucial federal forest management reforms.
WASHINGTON, March 22, 2018—The nation’s 59 state and territorial foresters are thrilled lawmakers on Capitol Hill have come to a bipartisan agreement on a permanent wildfire funding fix and a set of meaningful federal forest management reforms.
“Because of Congress' persistence, the tireless work of their staff, and the tremendous support of the forestry community, all of America’s forests—and the millions of Americans that depend on them—will benefit," said George Geissler, NASF president and Oklahoma state forester.
Congress' wildfire funding resolution—which is anticipated to be included in the 2018 omnibus appropriations along with federal forest management reforms—would stop the raiding of the USDA Forest Service’s non-wildfire suppression programs, which include the agency’s State and Private Forestry programs.
State foresters, and the agencies they direct, use State and Private Forestry programs to enhance the health, resilience, and productivity of state and private forests through wildfire prevention and suppression activities, pest and disease management, and technical assistance programs for private landowners.
"With on-the-ground direction from state forestry agencies, these critically important programs support the conservation of more than 60 percent of the forests in the United States," Geissler explained in a letter to congressional leadership yesterday. "Every state, regardless of whether it contains a national forest, will benefit from Congress' wildfire funding fix."
Every state will also benefit from the equally important federal forest management reforms that Congress has agreed to.
"Forest threats know no boundaries, so when wildfire, insects, or disease hit a national forest, neighboring private and state forests are hit too," Geissler said. "Congress' plan to expand Good Neighbor Authority will allow the nation’s state foresters to work on neighboring federal lands to improve the health of federal forests. Additional categorical exclusion authority will also allow the USDA Forest Service to eliminate unnecessary processes and more quickly render decisions on critical management projects within federal forests."
State and territorial foresters are also supportive of Congress' inclusion of:
- Twenty-year stewardship contracts, which will allow industry to invest and expand markets for wood products in areas where mills are scarce. Without markets, options for active management are limited and forest health suffers.
- Limits on the number of alternatives under consideration in an environmental analysis, which will streamline the process by removing unnecessary steps and costly surveys. With a more straight-forward process for analysis, forest health projects can be started and completed on federal lands in a more timely fashion.
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