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Forest Inventory and Analysis
The Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program is the nation's only comprehensive forest inventory system for assessing the health and sustainability of the nation's forests across all ownerships. The 1998 Farm Bill mandated the USDA Forest Service to partner with the states and non-governmental interests to implement a nationally consistent, annual inventory program in all states, ensuring timely availability of data and developing state level reports every five years.
Credible forest inventory data
The FIA Program collects data on everything from forest species composition, to forest growth rates, to forest health data. The program provides unbiased information which serves as the basis for monitoring trends in wildlife habitat, wildfire risk, insect and disease threats, predicting spread of invasive species and for solving many other resource questions. It is a particularly important tool used to in the long-term monitoring and development of the Forest Action Plans required by the 2008 Farm Bill.
Baselines for renewable energy and carbon markets
The broad forestry and environmental community rely on the FIA program more than ever to provide information about biomass and carbon sequestration in forests. For instance, FIA data currently plays an important role in carbon accounting systems found in existing voluntary carbon trading programs. FIA estimates also help renewable energy investors identify landscapes where a sustainable supply of woody-biomass is available before siting wood-based bioenergy facilities. With the growth of renewable energy, FIA will serve a valuable role in determining how our forest resources can contribute to an improved environment while fostering economic development.
Improved understanding of the nation's family forest owners
The National Woodland Owner Survey (NWOS) is the social component of the FIA program which reports on private forest ownership patterns and trends. Nearly half of the family forest lands in the U.S. are owned by individuals over 65 years of age leaving a number of unanswered questions as land is transferred from one generation to the next or potentially divided and sold outside the family. The NWOS survey provides the baseline information needed to make better policy decisions designed to keep families and individuals interested in maintaining healthy and productive forests.
Opportunities for enhancement
We urge Congress to support the FIA program in FY 2013 at no less than current funding levels of $69 million and provide direction to the Forest Service to look for the most efficient way(s) to deliver the program including contracting with partners, most notably state forestry agencies, who can accomplish necessary field work at lower cost. With efficient delivery, current funding levels can contribute towards the original goals of providing a fully annualized inventory in all states and provide policy makers, forest managers, private investors, and others with the information they need to make sound decisions regarding the nation’s forests.
Further, we support efforts through Farm Bill reauthorization that provides strategic direction for the FIA program that (among other things) supports a transition to a fully annualized inventory program, implements an annualized inventory of trees in urban settings, and reports information on renewable biomass supplies and carbon stocks.