Newly introduced farm bill holds promise for nation's forests

Thursday, April 12, 2018

THE HOUSE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE HAS INTRODUCED A 2018 FARM BILL THAT WOULD IMPROVE THE HEALTH OF ALL OF THE NATION'S FORESTS, IN TURN BOLSTERING THE MANY PUBLIC BENEFITS THEY PROVIDE: SUSTAINABLE RURAL ECONOMIES, BOUNTIFUL CLEAN AIR AND WATER, AMPLE WILDLIFE HABITAT, AND A HOST OF DIVERSE RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES

WASHINGTON—The National Association of State Foresters applauds the House Agriculture Committee for its work to develop and introduce a robust 2018 Farm Bill with Forestry Title provisions that would help ensure the long-term health and sustainability of all America's forests and trees.

"More than 60 percent of the forests in the United States are state or privately owned; and on these lands, more than 90 percent of the country's wood supply is produced, providing over $200 billion in products and supporting nearly one million jobs annually," said George Geissler, NASF president and Oklahoma state forester. "The forestry programs and policies included in the 2018 Farm Bill will support and enhance the health and productivity of these state and private forests, helping to sustain economic prosperity and protect environmental quality across the country."

Specifically, the 2018 Farm Bill would codify the Landscape Scale Restoration Program.

Forest threats—such as catastrophic wildfire, invasive insects, and disease—know no boundaries. That is why landscape-scale, cross-boundary forest management projects are so critical to protecting the nation’s forests and the communities that depend on them. The Landscape Scale Restoration (LSR) Program—which was created to enhance outcomes delivered through the USDA Forest Service's cooperative forestry programs—gives the federal government and states the ability to implement crucial, cross-boundary forest management projects in the most cost-effective and coordinated way: guided by statewide Forest Action Plans.

Completed in 2010 and reviewed in 2015, each state and territory's Forest Action Plan provides information for prioritizing forest management on regional and national scales. LSR projects dedicate support to only the top national priorities identified in these comprehensive plans.

The 2018 Farm Bill would also: 

  • Codify and fund a community wood-to-energy program, providing support for local renewable energy efforts and the expansion of forest product markets.   
  • Focus the USDA Forest Service's research on expanding markets for wood products, helping forestland owners maintain ownership and active management of their land.
  • Streamline the environmental analysis required for projects on federal forests at high risk of wildfire, protecting state and private forestland from wildfires started on federal lands and vice versa.
  • Encourage cross-boundary fuels reduction projects, helping curb the damage caused by wildfires nationwide.
  • Simplify the requirements the Forest Service must meet for Endangered Species Act consultation, ensuring species of concern are protected but unneeded delays are avoided.
  • Expand Good Neighbor Authority, allowing for more and much-needed forest management projects to take place on federal forests.

“The nation's 59 state and territorial foresters greatly appreciate the thoughtfulness put into this legislation," said Jay Farrell, NASF executive director. "The Farm Bill’s Forestry Title programs help state forestry agencies carry out their missions to conserve, protect, and enhance America’s trees and forests, and are key to responding to the myriad forest threats these agencies work to address day in and day out.”

“We look forward to working across the aisle with the members of the House Agriculture Committee to secure appropriate authorization levels for these programs and will remain hopeful that Congress will pass a Farm Bill this year,” Farrell added. “State foresters stand ready to assist, both in providing input on the legislation and in its ultimate implementation."

For more information on NASF's 2018 Farm Bill Priorities, click here

Media Contact: Whitney Forman-Cook at wforman-cook@stateforesters.org or 202-624-5417