House subcommittee questions Forest Service FY20 budget justification

This week, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies heard the USDA Forest Service’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget justification.

Chairwoman Betty McCollum of Minnesota and many of her colleagues were dismissive of the president’s proposed budget cuts to the Forest Service. McCollum highlighted the budget’s suggestion to cut the agency’s State and Private Forestry program area by 46% compared to FY19 funding levels; proposed cuts she said, that would negatively affect all forest lands because insects and disease “know no boundaries.”

Ranking Member Dave Joyce of Ohio also voiced his concerns about the budget’s proposed elimination of the Urban and Community Forestry program, which he noted provides benefits to 200 million Americans in over 8,200 communities annually.

In her testimony, Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen touted the department’s shared stewardship initiative as a new, outcome-based model for better forest management. “The Forest Service cannot solve all the forest issues as one agency,” she told the panel. “There are plenty of good ideas and intent from other partners (and shared stewardship) is a way to up our game and get the most work done.”

“At the Forest Service, it’s not business as usual. We’ve achieved a 20-year high in terms of timber (production) and (completed) over 14 million acres of hazardous fuels treatments,” she continued. “Shared stewardship is the preferred model for doing work. States have a special capacity and talent and can accomplish (this work) at a larger scale. In Idaho, there are 11 active GNA projects with 17 more in the works.”

Please contact NASF Policy Director Robyn Whitney at rwhitney@stateforesters.org with questions.