America’s federally owned forestlands face serious threats.
Entire landscapes are experiencing deteriorating health problems and uncharacteristic ecological change as a result of insect and disease epidemics, catastrophic wildfire and other forest health stressors.
Increasing the pace and scale of forest management projects is necessary to improve the resilience of federal forest lands.
There are 750 million acres of forestland in the United States. Twenty percent of these lands are managed by the USDA Forest Service (USFS) and six percent are managed by the Department of the Interior (DOI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
“We need more active management on federal lands. Many of these forests, which comprise just over a quarter of the nation’s forests, are fire-prone, overgrown and disease-ridden. Forest health threats know no boundaries and there is an urgent need for more active management on these landscapes in order to protect both public and privately-owned forests and the communities that depend upon them,” said NASF’s policy director Gary Schiff.
“State Foresters are responsible for the health, well-being and socio-economic benefits of forest resources within their jurisdictions and what happens on federal forests has a direct bearing on their ability to fulfill those responsibilities.”
“These policy recommendations have many components which NASF believes will help increase the pace and scale of forest management in an environmentally responsible way,” said Schiff.
To ensure the delivery of a robust and balanced set of diverse benefits from federal forests, significant changes are needed in the federal policies that direct USDA Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management efforts. Federal forests provide critical public benefits including clean air and water, forest products and jobs, recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat.
Only by accelerating the scope, scale and pace of on-the-ground management, consistent with approved management plans, will we be able to restore our federal forests to a more sustainable, resilient condition.
NASF’s Desired Policy Reforms
Here are a few examples of NASF’s Federal Forest Land Policy recommendations:
Reforms that would deliver a more balanced set of social, environmental and economic benefits:
- Provide specific internal agency direction on planning rule implementation to place greater emphasis on the need for National Forest Plans to address priorities identified in Forest Action Plans.
Reforms that would lower costs of agency administration, planning, regulatory compliance and litigation:
- Allow the USFS and BLM biologists to make certain Section 7 determinations.
Reforms that would enable vegetation management to be carried out at a scope, scale and pace sufficient to create more sustainable and resilient landscape conditions:
- Install a funding mechanism and ensure adequate financial support for fire suppression activities, including through the use of emergency funds, such that other budget items will not have to be accessed to pay for shortages in suppression dollars
- Encourage federal agencies to consult with the State Forester and document the results of State Forester consultation to coordinate an all-lands approach during all phases of forest management, fuels reduction, and land transfer plan development and implementation; this should include how federal forest management plans consider and respond to State Forest Action Plans.
- Expand the appropriate use of large-scale Categorical Exclusions for:
- Actions and activities agreed upon by local collaboratives,
- Reducing wildfire risk,
- Responding to insect and disease outbreaks; and
- Addressing a shortage of early successional wildlife habitat and ensuring the creation and maintenance of a diverse range of habitat.