Long-awaited FY22 spending bill becomes law

President Biden has signed a fiscal year (FY) 2022 omnibus spending bill into law, averting a government shutdown. The final appropriations package includes modest funding increases for priority forestry programs vital to America’s forest sector.

WASHINGTON—The National Association of State Foresters was relieved to learn that Congress had come to agreement on a long-awaited FY 2022 spending bill last week. The parties’ compromise to have parity between defense and non-defense programs has squeezed non-defense spending across all federal programs, though. This means that state foresters’ priority programs  did not receive robust increases as the House and Senate proposed in earlier drafts of the bill.

“Even though the funding levels we anticipated didn’t materialize in the final spending bill, state foresters agree that what increases were made to our priority program budgets will continue to support our work on the ground to provide technical assistance to forestland owners, equipment and training for wildland firefighters, and science-based management to forests in need,” said Christopher Martin, NASF president and Connecticut state forester. “In particular, the programs housed within the USDA Forest Service’s State and Private Forestry Mission Area are foundational to conserving and protecting the majority of America’s forests owned by private landowners and state and local governments. Notably, none of these programs will see funding cuts this fiscal year.”

The only state forester priority program that didn’t receive a bump in funding or maintained funding compared to FY 2021 enacted numbers was the Forest Legacy Program, which is no longer part of the State and Private Forestry (S&PF) discretionary budget account.

Overall, the S&PF account received an increase of over $48 million compared to FY 2021 enacted levels. Roughly $30 million of that total will fund S&PF-related earmarks through a new budget line item (BLI). Most of the remaining programmatic increases for S&PF in FY 2022 are detailed in the table below. Not listed are the Community Forests and Open Space Program, which received a $1.5 million increase over its FY 2021 appropriation; International Programs, which gained $1.6 million; and the Forest Health Program on Federal Lands, which got a $500,000 boost.

“NASF and its state forester members are now focused on FY 2023 and beyond,” Martin continued. “One of the ways we propose to enhance the application of state Forest Action Plans and the delivery of S&PF programs is through the creation of a ‘State Forest Action Plan Implementation’ BLI using existing S&PF authorities. Not only would such a BLI help the Forest Service allocate the $200 million it received for Forest Action Plan Implementation through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, it would accelerate work on top-priority projects and greatly benefit public and private forests across the United States.”

Forest Action Plans offer practical and comprehensive roadmaps for investing federal, state, local, and private resources where they can be most effective in achieving national conservation goals. While these plans are state-defined solutions, their success depends on partnerships among private landowners and businesses, state agencies, federal and tribal landowners, and NGOs. Now more than ever, it is critical that America’s forested landscapes and community tree canopies are appropriately managed to support the health, prosperity, security, and well-being of all Americans.

State Forester Priority Program Appropriations (in millions)

FY19 Enacted FY20 Enacted FY21 Enacted* FY22 NASF Recommendation* FY22 Enacted*
All State and Private Forestry Programs $335.49 $346.99 $215.87 N/A $257.46
Forest Stewardship $20.50 $21.00 $11.90 $22.00 $12.00
State Fire Assistance** $81.00 $82.00 $73.43 $79.00 $75.00
Volunteer Fire Assistance** $17.00 $18.00 $19.00 $20.00 $20.00
Urban and Community Forestry $29.50 $32.00 $31.91 $31.91 $36.00
Landscape Scale Restoration $14.00 $14.00 $14.00 $20.00 $14.00
Forest Health on Cooperative Lands $42.00 $44.00 $30.75 $39.43 $32.00
Forest Inventory and Analysis*** $77.00 $77.00 $17.62 $32.40 $22.20
Forest Legacy**** $63.99 $63.99 $94.25 $128.00 $88.88
Section 319 Grants $165.30 $172.30 $177.00 $177.00 $178.00

* FY21 and FY22 enacted levels and FY22 NASF recommended levels reflect the new USDA Forest Service budget structure. Salaries and expenses, as well as Forest Service “operations account” expenses are separated from program dollars. Only program dollars are noted.
** The Senate directs these programs to be renamed State Fire Capacity and Volunteer Fire Capacity.
*** NASF asks that Congress work with the USDA Forest Service to establish a budget line item for FIA salaries and expenses.
**** Per the Great American Outdoors Act, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is permanently and fully funded. Forest Legacy Program funding is no longer part of the USDA Forest Service State and Private Forestry discretionary budget account.

Media Contact: Whitney Forman-Cook at wforman-cook@stateforesters.org