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Our nation's forests play an important role in the health of our environment and our economy—providing clear air and water, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, renewable forest products, enhanced property values, and good-paying jobs. Voters value these extraordinary benefits and hold serious concerns regarding the future of our forests, especially as wildfire, development, climate change, and insects increasingly threaten forest health and sustainability.
The Forest Service's State and Private Forestry programs leverage the capacity of state agencies to provide vital assistance to forest landowners and communities to manage, maintain, and improve the nation's 423 million acres of private forests and 100 million acres of urban forests. State Foresters fully appreciate the difficult choices that come with a commitment to fiscal responsibility and offer a number of federal appropriations recommendations for FY2014 to respond to priorities identified in State Forest Resource Assessments and Strategies (Forest Action Plans).
Forest Inventory & Analysis (FIA) Program: Funding Recommendation: $72 million
FIA is the only national inventory system that delivers timely and consistent information about the condition and trends of America's forestland, across all ownerships. It is essential to land managers in order to make sound ecological, economic, and social decisions about the current and future state of the nation's forests. Unfortunately, the President's FY14 Budget continues the practice of proposing reductions for the program (by $2 million compared to FY12) that will limit the ability to meet the 1998 Farm Bill mandate to implement an national, annual inventory program and develop state-level reports every five years.
Cooperative Forest Health Management - Funding Recommendation: $48 million
Among the greatest threats identified in the Forest Action Plans are exotic forest pests and invasive species. These damaging pests and pathogens threaten the forests that provide jobs to millions of Americans and result in the loss of billions of dollars to the tourism, forest products and related industries each year. The Cooperative Forest Health program provides funding assistance focused on prevention, detection, and suppression of damaging insects, diseases, and plants. It reduces public expense by mitigating these forest health concerns in high hazard areas, such as forests at high risk of fire or those recently burned and susceptible to insect and disease attack.
State Fire Assistance - Funding Recommendation: $86 million
More people in fire-prone landscapes, high fuel loads, drought and unhealthy landscapes are among the factors that have led State Foresters to identify wildland fire as a significant priority issue in their state Forest Action Plans that often threatens human life and property. State Fire Assistance provides crucial financial and technical assistance to states and local fire departments and helps thousands of communities prepare for (and mitigate the risk of) wildland fire. The program helps train and equip first responders who can quickly and efficiently respond to wildland fires. In FY2012, the program provided assistance to 14,775 communities as they prepared for and mitigate the risk of wildland fire.
Forest Stewardship Program - Funding Recommendation: $29 million
Working forests are a key part of the rural landscape that provide jobs, clean water, wood products and other essential services to millions of Americans. A common threat found in nearly all Forest Action Plans includes the risk of converting working forests to commercial and residential development. The Forest Stewardship Program continues to serve as the primary tool for promoting sustainable forest management on family forestlands. The technical assistance provided through the FSP is a gateway to other effective USDA, state and private sector programs designed to help keep working forests intact.
Urban & Community Forestry - Funding Recommendation: $31 million
The Forest Action Plans reported a number of threats to urban and community forests that serve as essential green infrastructure to 226 million taxpayers. These include fire in the Wildland Urban Interface, development, invasive plants and insects, diseases and others that often overwhelm the resources of cities and towns. The U&CF program provides critical assistance to communities in establishing and managing local urban and community forestry resources where 80% of Americans live-in our cities and towns.
Landscape-scale Restoration - Funding Recommendation: $20 million
The new proposed Budget Line Item entitled "Landscape Scale Restoration" (LSR) seeks to formalize the current State and Private Forestry Redesign competitive process and eliminates the need to combine funds from existing BLIs. LSR allows states to continue pursuing innovative, landscape-scale projects focused in priority areas identified in Forest Action Plans. NASF supports LSR-provided that it does not change the current competitive process nor eliminate options for possible funding flexibility opportunities. Funding LSR at $20 million is contingent on further discussions with the administration, Forest Service and appropriators.
Overall State & Private Forestry Funding Recommendation: $253 million