Florida state forester urges Congress to continue support for forests

NASF President Jim Karels testifies about critical landowner, forest health, and fire protection assistance.

WASHINGTON—Florida State Forester and National Association of State Foresters President Jim Karels today urged a House panel to support NASF recommendations for USDA Forest Service (USFS) program funding levels.

Speaking to the House Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, Karels spoke about the critical need to support USFS State and Private Forestry (S&PF) programs and the State Fire Assistance program. These programs leverage state and partner resources to protect and sustainably manage non-federal forests.

“State foresters deliver technical and financial assistance, along with forest health, water and wildfire protection for more than two-thirds of the nation’s 751 million acres of forests. The Forest Service S&PF mission area provides vital support to deliver these services, which contribute to the socioeconomic and environmental health of rural and urban areas,” Karels told the panel.

“S&PF programs provide a significant return on the federal investment by leveraging the boots-on-the-ground and financial resources of state agencies to deliver assistance to forest landowners, tribes, and communities. As federal and state governments continue to face financial challenges, state foresters, in partnership with the S&PF mission area of the Forest Service, are best positioned to maximize effectiveness of available resources by focusing work on priority forest issues where resources are needed most.

“Your support of the following programs is critical to helping states address the many and varied challenges outlined in Forest Action Plans,” Karels said. He then outlined the following priority programs:

  1. Forest Health Management – Cooperative Lands
    Supports work to prevent, contain, and eradicate harmful species that cost landowners, cities, and towns billions of dollars each year.
    FY 2016 funding recommendation: $48 million
  2. Urban & Community Forestry
    Provides technical and financial assistance to promote stewardship of urban forests in cities and towns, where nearly 80 percent of Americans now live.
    FY 2016 funding recommendation: $31 million
  3. Forest Inventory & Analysis
    The only comprehensive inventory system in the United States for assessing the health and sustainability of the nation’s forests across all ownerships.
    FY 2016 funding recommendation: $83 million
  4. Forest Stewardship
    Provides boots-on-the-ground technical assistance to families and individuals who own private forest lands.. The program works to ensure that private landowners have the best information to help them manage their land sustainably.
    FY 2016 funding recommendation: $29 million
  5. Landscape Scale Restoration
    This program is targeted at helping states implement work outlined in each Forest Action Plan. Forest Action Plans are the first ever attempt to create a plan covering all forest resources in a state—federal, state, and private—to ensure they continue to provide public benefits ranging from clean air and water, to wood products, jobs, and habitat for wildlife.
    FY 2016 funding recommendation: $23.5 million
  6. State Fire Assistance
    Serves as the key federal program for assisting states and local fire departments in preparing for, mitigating, and responding to wildland fires.
    FY 2016 funding recommendation: $86 million

Media Contact: Amanda Cooke at acooke@stateforesters.org and 202-624-5417