By Ryan Martini
This week, members of the National Association of State Foresters and regional state forestry associations met with their members of Congress in Washington, D.C., to discuss priority forestry issues. During more than 30 meetings, state foresters spoke with congressional leaders and their staff about priority programs that help conserve, protect, and enhance America’s forests.
Trees and forests form a major portion of the green infrastructure of the United States. In fact, the forest industry sector is larger than the automobile industry and is the economic backbone of much of rural America. State foresters identified specific priorities for Congress and President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office including:
- Wildfire funding: The United States needs a comprehensive wildfire suppression funding fix which addresses fire borrowing and solves the long-term erosion of agency budgets that results from wildfire suppression consuming an ever-increasing share of the USDA Forest Service budget.
- Appropriations: State Foresters asked members of Congress to protect America’s green infrastructure and grow its economy through support for United States Department of Agriculture programs that enhance state and private forests. State Foresters placed particular emphasis on strong appropriations recommendations for the programs related to Forest Stewardship, Urban and Community Forestry, and Forest Health Management.
- Federal forest management: Rural communities will benefit from more active management of federal forests including the expansion of Good Neighbor Authority which allows State Foresters to implement approved projects on federal forestland.
- Landscape scale restoration: Forest health will improve through codification of the Landscape Scale Restoration program which allows the State Foresters to focus a portion of federal funding on the highest national priorities outlined in their state’s Forest Action Plan.
NASF Vice President and Oklahoma State Forester George Geissler, Executive Director Jay Farrell, and Policy Director Gary Schiff also met with acting USDA Undersecretary of Natural Resources and the Environment Dan Jiron and the new administration’s transition team. In the meeting they discussed NASF’s priorities for the first 100 days of the new administration as described in NASF’s letter to Secretary Designee Sonny Perdue.
In addition, Congressman Bruce Westerman of Arkansas joined the NASF Forest Resources Management and Forest Markets Committees to discuss potential markets and innovative value-added forest product. Rep. Westerman, the only professional forester in the House of Representatives, was the 2016 Bernard L. Orell Award winner, an NASF recognition program that celebrates significant contributions to state and private forestry.
Last week, the Congressman and his colleagues launched the bipartisan Working Forests Caucus for 115th Congress. To learn more about this effort, read the press release on Congressman Westerman’s website.