Tuesday, May 2, 2017
This week Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the Empowering State Forestry to Improve Forest Health Act of 2017. This bipartisan legislation would direct funding toward the highest priority projects, resulting in measurable improvements to non-federal private forests and nearby National Forest System lands.
“State Foresters applaud the introduction of the Empowering State Forestry to Improve Forest Health Act and appreciate the leadership of Senator Daines and Senator Klobuchar. This legislation emphasizes the critical role of the nation’s Forest Action Plans in forest management decisions and will finally codify a program that helps to fund state-defined national priorities for trees and forests. This legislation will also help protect America’s communities by focusing a portion of USDA Forest Service fuels management funding on cross-boundary work across multiple American communities, in coordination with State Foresters,” said Bill Crapser, President of the National Association of State Foresters and Wyoming State Forester.
“Today, forests are experiencing stressors far beyond one property line – catastrophic wildfires, insect infestations and more,” said Tom Martin, President and CEO of American Forest Foundation (AFF). “Because families and private individuals collectively own the most forestland across the United States, they are a key ownership group that can help address the most perilous threats to our forests. We applaud Senator Daines and Senator Klobuchar for championing smart policy solutions that will encourage programs to work at the landscape level in order to see measurable results.” Tom added further.
The bill builds on an existing program that was created to enhance the on-the-ground outcomes delivered through the USDA Forest Service Cooperative Forestry Programs. The bill codifies the program and adds a requirement that state Forest Action Plans be the basis for project selection.
In addition, the bill directs a portion of the USDA Forest Service Hazardous Fuels Program to cross-boundary work including thinning trees and using prescribed burns, in order to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire. Together with the Forest Service, State Foresters would select those projects and be able to spend a portion of that funding on fuels reduction on adjoining state, county and private lands.
The Empowering State Forestry to Improve Forest Health Act of 2017 would:
• Authorize a new USDA Forest Service program which codifies an existing approach the agency is pursuing to support landscape restoration;
• Direct resources toward the highest priority forestry projects as identified each state forestry agency’s Forest Action Plan;
• Direct the USDA Forest Service and the Department of the Interior to spend a portion of the Hazardous Fuels Reduction Program resources on projects that include work across public and private lands;
• Bolster the use of the Farm Bill’s Good Neighbor Authority; and much more.