By Zoe Bommarito
Last week, the National Association of State Foresters joined other members of the Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition (SUFC) to speak with legislators about forestry priorities for the 2018 Farm Bill. The coalition, made up of a variety of non-profit organizations, industry partners, and professional forestry groups, provided members of Congress with a list of suggestions for the cooperative forestry title that will directly benefit American urban and community forests.
First on the list: a wildfire funding fix. Most of us know that wildfire suppression costs have risen to consume more than 50 percent of the Forest Service's annual budget, but some still haven't made the connection between "fire borrowing" and the negative impact it has on state and private forestry programs. Every season that the Forest Service takes money from its other programs to pay for wildfire suppression, all forests—federal, state, urban, and private—are worse off. Actively managing our forests and investing in a wildfire funding fix will promise a greener future for communities around the country, but it's not possible without greater investment and coordination.
Another priority of the coalition is to codify the Landscape Scale Restoration (LSR) grant program. LSR is still in its pilot stage, but has been extremely successful in delivering the resources necessary to complete important state forestry projects around the country. During these meetings, coalition members explained to congressmen and women how these projects—ranging from statewide community tree inventories to invasive pest management and forestry education efforts—help us realize a more productive, healthy, and sustainable future.
Through urban and community forestry in both the Farm Bill and the annual appropriations process, Congress has the opportunity to invest in communities around the country—we hope they will.