With the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress tasked the states and territories with assessing all the forests within their boundaries and developing strategies to improve the health, resiliency, and productivity of those forests. The resulting Forest Action Plans provided Congress, land managers, federal agencies, and scientists with an analysis of forest conditions and trends across the country, as well as practical, long-term plans for investing state, federal, and other resources in the most effective ways possible.
Collectively, state Forest Action Plans make up the first-ever strategic plan for the nation's forests. State foresters strongly encourage Congress to support and reinforce these plans in legislation and through annual appropriations.
Developing the Plans
Assessing forest resources and engaging in strategic planning for those resources were not new activities for most states and territories. For others, the 2008 Farm Bill presented an opportunity to revise their usual agency planning process.
The states and territories took different approaches to developing these plans, with some engaging stakeholders like government agencies, private landowners, tribes and indigenous peoples, and conservation groups through meetings, polls, and surveys. Others included existing plans and assessments in their plans as appendices, including:
- Community Wildfire Protection Plans
- State Wildlife Action Plans
- Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plans
- State Forest Stewardship Plan/State Forest Land and Resource Management Plans
- Urban and Community Forest Plans
- State Environmental Literacy Plans
- Forest Legacy Program
- Management Guidelines/Species Conservation Plans
- National Forest Land and Resource Management Plans
Keeping the plans current
Each state and territory completed a Forest Action Plan by 2010. Before June 2020, they will be tasked with completing comprehensive revisions of their Forest Action Plans.
Forest Action Plans require state forestry agencies to coordinate with other agencies and solicit stakeholder engagement. For instance, every Forest Action Plan must complement existing Community Wildfire Protection Plans and State Wildlife Action Plans, and include input from a diversity of stakeholders, including State Technical Committees, State Forest Stewardship Coordinating Committees, and applicable federal land management agencies.
Most states have broadened their coordination with stakeholders well beyond what is required to ensure their Forest Action Plans reflect the values and priorities of their residents. Many have worked closely with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, conservation districts, recreation groups, and environmental regulatory agencies to this end.
States are not limited in the ways they involve stakeholders and agencies in the 10-year revision process. Forests provide tremendous benefits to society, including clean air and water, soil erosion protection, wildlife habitat, carbon storage, recreational opportunities, and raw materials that support millions of jobs nationwide. Because everyone is a beneficiary of forests, anyone can chose to be a stakeholder in their management—simply reach out to your state forestry agency and ask to be included.
To learn more about the 10-year Forest Action Plan revision process, click here to access NASF's 10-year Revision Toolkit.