Stakeholders welcome new FIA strategic plan

Stakeholders welcome new USDA Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis strategic plan.

WASHINGTON—A broad coalition of conservation, forest products, natural resources groups, and state agencies welcomes the Agriculture Department’s new strategic plan for the USDA Forest Service’s (USFS) Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program. The Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the Farm Bill, requires the USDA to submit an updated plan report to Congress.

The report provides lawmakers with information on funding needs to achieve the provisions for the FIA program as outlined in the 2014 Farm Bill. Its release is valuable to FIA stakeholders because it serves as a framework for understanding how the USFS envisions implementing the program and the funding levels necessary to do so.

The provisions for the program identified in the 2014 legislation include:

  • Completing the transition to a fully annualized forest inventory program that includes inventory and analysis of interior Alaska,
  • Reporting information on renewable biomass supplies and carbon stocks at the local, state, regional, and national level, including ownership type,
  • Fostering greater cooperation among the forest inventory and analysis program staff, research station leaders, state foresters, and other users of information from the forest inventory and analysis program,
  • Promoting sustainable forest stewardship through increased understanding, in partnership with other federal agencies, of the more than 10 million family forest owners, their demographics, and the barriers to forest stewardship.

“Forest Inventory and Analysis functions as the census for our nation’s forest. The data collected allows foresters to make informed decisions about what is happening now and how to plan for in the future,” said Society of American Foresters’ President Bob Alverts, CF. “We look forward to working with the Forest Service to assist in deploying elements of the strategic plan to help forestry professionals who use the data to make management decisions, identify emerging research needs, and track trends and changes in forests across the country.”

A vital resource for academics, researchers, and policy professionals across a variety of natural resources disciplines, the FIA program has provided scientifically credible, empirical annual resource inventory data for more than 75 years on both private and public forestlands across the United States. FIA tracks the amount, location, and ownership of forestland in the United States. The program also tracks how that land is managed and how it’s changing. The resulting information is used in several ways, such as to guide investment in natural resources, evaluate wildlife habitat, assess the effectiveness of management practices, support the planning activities of both public and private landowners, and assist forest products industries in making long-term investment decisions

“The report release is welcome news; however it is important that FIA receive adequate funding of at least the $83 million requested in the president’s FY 2016 budget to put the Forest Service on a path to properly survey our nation’s forests,” said AF&PA President and CEO Donna Harman.

“State Foresters are a key partner in Forest Inventory and Analysis program delivery. In 2014, more than 60 percent of state forestry agencies contributed state funds to support delivery of the program. State Foresters look forward to working closely with the USDA Forest Service and our partners in the forestry community to improve program efficiencies and meet diverse needs for program data,” said Jim Karels, Florida State Forester and president of the National Association of State Foresters.

“From development pressures, to wildfire and insect and disease infestations, forest owners nationwide face growing threats. FIA data provides critical updates on forest health and market trends to know how to manage and react to these growing threats,” said Tom Martin, President and CEO of the American Forest Foundation. “FIA also provides a census of the trends in family forest ownership, demographics, and trends, so we can better understand how to work with the 22 million Americans, who own more than a third of the nation’s forestland.”

“Accurate and timely information is critical to sound forest management and good business decisions, said David Tenny, President and CEO, National Alliance of Forest Owners. The forestry community, the government, and the public also rely on FIA data to inform good policy. We are encouraged by the Forest Service’s request for additional funds and look forward to working with the agency and our partners to ensure additional funding is focused on areas providing the most significant overall benefit.”

Coalition members feel that the president’s budget request for fiscal year 2016 is a step in the right direction to move the program towards the implementation that was intended by the Blue Ribbon Panels and Congress.  The coalition is ready to work with the agency to identify strategic priorities and opportunities for efficiencies in FIA program delivery in support of the Forest Service’s mission to “sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.”

Media Contact: Amanda Cooke, 202-624-5417 or acooke@stateforesters.org