State Foresters Lead Forest Health Congressional Briefing

By Emily Bazydlo

Congressional forest health briefing

This week, eight Members of the House Committee on Agriculture and 16 personal and Committee staff attended a forest health briefing organized by the National Association of State Foresters (NASF) and sponsored by Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee Chairman Representative Glenn Thompson (R-PA).

The meeting began with a warm welcome by the Chairman. Rep. Thompson reminded the subcommittee about the importance of forest stewardship, saying “Without a strong, robust, rural America, people in urban American will wake up in the cold and dark.”  

After the Chairman’s introductions, the forestry experts took the spotlight: Chris Martin, Connecticut State Forester and chair of the NASF Forest Science and Health Committee; Bettina Ring, Virginia State Forester and Chair of the NASF Legislative Committee; and Rick Cooksey, the Deputy Director of the Forest Health Protection branch of the USDA Forest Service (Forest Service).

The State Foresters and Forest Service walked the audience through the threats to our nation’s forests. Chris Martin wove the story of two of the United States’ most iconic tree species, the American chestnut and elm, and the invasive species that have pushed them toward extinction.

Rick Cooksey followed Martin with a more national-level perspective about emerald ash borer, the southern pine beetle and the wooly adelgid, among other threats. Cooksey painted a picture of not only how these threats directly harm our forests, he also explained how the increasing number of dead trees are exacerbating catastrophic wildfire conditions and having vast economic impacts as well.

Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA) spoke passionately about the dangers that California faces not the least of which are drought, dead trees and fire. “We’ve got to do a better job managing our forests across the country,” Rep. Costa told attendees.

Bettina Ring articulated Virginia’s forest health issues as well as strategies to combat these issues, highlighting the importance of partnerships amongst state and federal agencies and the importance of engaged woodland owners.

The presentation ended with Cooksey stressing the importance of Farm Bill programs for state and federal forestry agencies, and Martin outlining needs for the future of healthy forests.

To learn about forest health issues in your state, find your Forest Action Plan at

Read what states and their federal partners are doing to conserve, protect and enhance America’s forests in the 2016 State and Private Forest Report:

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