A new era dawns in coordinated forest management as states unveil 2020 Forest Action Plans

By Whitney Forman-Cook | This blog is a cross-post and will appear in the Winter 2021 edition of the National Woodlands Magazine.

WHAT ARE FOREST ACTION PLANS?

Healthy forests in America are critical to public health and well-being and are part of our national infrastructure just like roads and bridges. They filter our air and water, provide jobs and a wealth of paper and wood products, and are places where our children and grandchildren enjoy wildlife and nature.

As all woodland owners know well: the benefits we enjoy from our forests don’t happen by chance. Forest Action Plans in every state and U.S. territory are guiding the work of forestry professionals and supporting the goals of family forest landowners.


EVERY STATE HAS A FOREST ACTION PLAN. Your state’s Forest Action Plan includes in-depth analysis of forest conditions and trends in your area. Go to www.stateforesters.org and click on any of the interactive maps to learn how your state plans to conserve, protect, and enhance its forests and trees.


Way back in 2008, Congress passed a Farm Bill that tasked the states and territories with assessing all the trees and forests within their boundaries, regardless of land ownership, and developing strategies to (1) conserve working forest landscapes, (2) protect forests from harm, and (3) enhance public benefits from trees and forests.

The resulting state Forest Action Plans—completed in 2010, edited in 2015, and completely revised in 2020 by all 59 states and territories—offer practical and comprehensive roadmaps for investing federal, state, local, and private resources where they can be most effective in achieving shared conservation goals.

THE LATEST AND GREATEST EDITIONS ARE COMING ONLINE

After many months—and in some states, years!—of collecting public comments, hosting peer listening sessions, reviewing online survey submissions, and pouring over thousands of maps, data sets, and reports, all 59 Forest Action Plans have undergone a comprehensive transformation. By the end of January 2021, NASF will have added all of these plans to our website (www.stateforesters.org).

To celebrate the enormous effort that went into revising all 59 Forest Action Plans, we’ll be releasing a video series all about how your state uses them to conserve, protect, and enhance our forests and trees. Three of the videos are shorter in length, but packed full with interesting information about forest management, forest partnerships, and forest threats. A fourth, long-form video tells the story of Montana woodland owners Maryanne and Don Garner and their work with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

It was important for our Forest Action Plan video series to feature forested landscapes and private landowners from around the country. If you pay close attention, you’ll see trees being planted in Nevada, forest restoration work in Montana, wildland firefighters in California, volunteer trail crews in Vermont, pristine forest streams in Arkansas, and prescribed burning in Texas.

FOREST ACTION PLANS ARE YOUR PLANS TOO

Diverse cultures and forest ecosystems make for different forest management strategies. Forest Action Plans take these differences into account. Forest Actions Plans aren’t one-size-fits-all: they reflect the realities woodland owners like you face every day. Nearly every state solicited public comments to ensure private forestland owners were given a voice in the development of their state’s Forest Action Plan. Some states hosted online surveys to collect public input, while others held town halls and community forums. Even if you didn’t provide comments on your state’s Forest Action Plan this year, that doesn’t mean your voice wasn’t accounted for.

Take the Montana Forest Action Advisory Council, for instance. To make sure Montana’s Forest Action Plan incorporated the needs and concerns of woodland owners in the state, the council relied on private landowner representative Holly McKenzie. As a Montana tree farm owner and long-time advocate for forest management and outdoor education, Holly was an active and vocal member of the council, spending many hours writing, reviewing, and editing sections of the Montana Forest Action Plan to make sure private landowners would benefit from its strategies.

Holly’s participation in the drafting process directly influenced the plan’s development. Some examples include:

  • Montana’s concerted public outreach and education effort – tailored to local needs and conditions – that helps landowners understand the severity of wildfire risk, mitigate wildfire damages, and save lives. (Read more about this effort in the “Wildfire Risk” section of the Montana Forest Action Plan.)
  • Montana’s commitment to engaging private landowners adjacent to federal and state lands in cross-boundary forest management projects. (Read more in the “Working Forests and Economies” section.)
  • Montana’s continued support of state and federal programs that assist private landowners and expand their use of cost-share and grant programs that improve forest health. (Read more in the “Forest Health” section.)

Forest Action Plans are your plans too. Private landowners and woodland owner groups can help support our Forest Action Plan video series launch by sharing it with friends, family, and colleagues. To learn more about your state’s plan, visit your forestry agency’s website or head to www.stateforesters.org.

Have questions? Contact NASF Communications Director Whitney Forman-Cook.