The nation’s 59 state and territorial foresters pass resolutions (for internal purposes) and release coordinating policy statements (externally facing) on an annual basis. These official views of the association address public policy issues, including legislation and policies adopted by various agencies of the federal government.
As natural resource professionals and directors of forestry agencies in all the states and territories, state foresters have a special responsibility and commitment to ensuring the sustainability of the forest resource. It is their resolution that biomass from the nation’s public and private forests can and should be part of any solution to meeting the nation’s renewable energy goals, particularly in regions where solar, wind, and other renewable resources are less prevalent.
Burning wood and other organic material constitutes 50 percent of all renewable energy produced in the United States, but there’s a real need for this proportion to increase. Without markets to accept woody biomass collected after mechanical thinnings, active forest management is less likely to occur. And without greater forest management, the health and resiliency of our forests suffer.
In 2010, NASF members approved a policy statement, “Forest Biomass Supply, Sustainability and Carbon Policy,” to demonstrate the important role the nation’s forests play in meeting national goals for renewable energy and fuels development. It is available by clicking here.
As a founding member of the Forest Climate Working Group, NASF helps develop recommendations for ensuring forests have a strong role in climate legislation. The Forest-Climate Working Group is a broad and diverse coalition of forest stakeholders formed to develop consensus recommendations for U.S. forest components of federal climate policy. Our partners in the Forest Climate Working Group—landowner, industry, conservation, wildlife, carbon finance, and forestry organizations—have been working together to provide input on climate policy since 2007.
Currently, forests in the United States reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 13 percent, and the potential of our forests for additional climate change mitigation is even greater. National policy related to climate change can enable the forest sector to make greater contributions to the reduction of greenhouse gas levels. As policies are created, state forestry agencies – which directly manage and protect millions of acres of state forests and assist private landowners in the management of nearly two-thirds of the forestland in the United States – should have a seat at the table.
For instance, state, national, and international climate change policies seek to account for and reward CO2 emission reductions and sequestration from the forest sector to varying degrees, and thus, the structure of emissions programs would have major implications for forest conservation, management, and use. State forestry agencies are in a unique position, not only to help guide the development of these programs, but also to assist in program delivery at the local level.
In 2015, state foresters approved a policy statement, “Recommendations for Enhancing the Role of Forests In Climate Change Mitigation and Ecosystem Adaption to Climate Change,” available by clicking here.
A number of new and potentially important uses for wood fiber are either in production are being researched and developed. These include industrial pellets, biofuel, biochar, torrefaction, cellulosic nanofibers and mass timbers for construction. Others no doubt will follow.
The National Association of State Foresters would like to equip its members with a clear statement of policy indicating that these new wood markets provide a welcome addition to the range of options that landowners have for funding the proper management and retention of their forest holdings. Where there is an opportunity to communicate this view the adopted policy statement can provide a useful tool.
NASF supports an updated Endangered Species Act that encourages greater cooperation, more efficient regulatory processes, and a renewed emphasis on sound science in the management of threatened or endangered plants and animals.
NASF takes a firm position on actively managing federal forest land. With too much red tape and not enough funding, the health of federal forests is ailing. For long-term sustainability, NASF suggests a range of changes to federal laws and policy that would focus the management of federal lands on achieving a more balanced set of economic, environmental, and social benefits.
State foresters have long advocated that domestic and certified wood products be used in green building. By resolution, they agree that the major wood certification programs used in the United States – the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – are legitimate and credible.
State foresters also understand that the materials used in constructing residential and commercial buildings in the United States often have a negative effect on the environment. Wood products, in contrast, are renewable, use less energy to create, and are often safer to use. The existence of multiple green building standards encourages sustainable practices, recognizes the sustainable nature in which American timber is procured, and enables institutions and individuals to choose the standard or rating system most in line with their management objectives and values.
More than 80 million forested acres are at risk of insect and disease damage, according to the latest research conducted by the USDA Forest Service. Damage to our nation’s forests puts the health and livelihoods of Americans at risk, and for this reason, the proper management of our forests is a critical national priority.
In the past 100 years, the United States has witnessed the loss of two very important forest species due to the introduction of foreign pathogens: the American chestnut and American elm. As global trade increases, and people and goods travel more widely and frequently, invasive pests are arriving at an increasing rate. In just the past decade, 90 invasive plants and 19 invasive wood- and bark-boring insects have been detected. Tree species such as ash, beech, birch, elm, hemlock, maple, oak, and walnut are all at risk from these invasive species.
Combating these pests and pathogens requires coordination among state and federal natural resource agencies, private forestland owners, and private and non-profit forestry organizations to address these threats to the health and productivity of America’s forests.
The National Association of State Foresters published “A Century of Shared Stewardship: State Foresters and the Forest Service” in September 2019. The report illustrates how state forestry agencies achieve greater outcomes on all lands for all Americans and makes the case for shared decision-making and priority-setting as it relates to protecting and conserving America’s forests.
With state Forest Action Plans at the core of future shared decision-making and priority-setting, and with the guiding principles enumerated in the association’s 2019 resolution on shared stewardship, state foresters and the USDA Forest Service can enhance their long-standing partnership to enhance America’s forests.
The greatest challenge to sustaining America’s forests and their many valuable services is land fragmentation and conversion. Both are largely driven by economic factors, and federal tax policy can play an important role in determining land use outcomes.
Tax policies must recognize the unique and long-term characteristics associated with timber and forest management investments, treat timber and forest management investments equitably in comparison to other capital ventures, and discourage the use of practices that result in environmental degradation or permanent conversion to non-forest land uses.
There also is a need to preserve the family forest landowner base and forest employment through favorable tax policies. With greater returns on forestland, private forestlands owners have the means to retain ownership of their forestlands and keep them forested through effective and sustainable management.
In 2011, the NASF Forest Resources Management Committee published a white paper, “Assessing the Federal Tax Code and Developing a Comprehensive Forest Tax Package: A Primer for State Foresters,” available by clicking here.
In 2015, the USDA Forest Service National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council, in compliance with Farm Bill requirements, released a National Urban and Community Forestry Action Plan developed in collaboration with an inclusive and diverse representation of key community forestry stakeholders. This plan provides a platform for a national agenda that will help all communities create urban and community forests that are diverse, healthy and resilient, and accessible for all citizens.
- 2019: Shared Stewardship Guiding Principles
- 2019: NASF Urban Forests Strategic Plan Policy Statement
- 2018: NASF Emerging Markets Policy Statement
- 2016: NASF Federal Lands Policy Statement
- 2015: NASF ESA Policy Statement
- 2015: NASF FIA Policy Statement
- 2015: NASF Climate Change Policy Statement
- 2015: NASF Tax Reform Policy Statement
- 2013: NASF Forest Certification Policy Statement
- 2012: NASF Invasive Species Policy Statement
- 2010: Forest Biomass Supply, Sustainability, and Carbon Policy