ON JANUARY 17, 2014, the President signed into law the final appropriations bill for fiscal year 2014. Based on the two-year budget agreement forged by Representative Ryan and Senator Murray, this budget reinstates some funding levels above the sequestration cuts that occurred last spring. While funding for forest restoration and protection are not at the levels American Forests would like to see, there are positive aspects of the appropriations bill. The Forest Service Urban and Community Forests (U&CF) was reinstated into the final bill after being excluded from the bill proposed by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies. What’s more, it was reinstated at a level higher — $28 million — than originally requested by the president. The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLR) was also fully funded at $40 million.Farm Bill Passes
AFTER MANY YEARS of negotiations, the Agriculture Act of 2014, aka the Farm Bill, was passed. Both of the titles American Forests works on with the Forests in the Farm Bill Coalition — the Conservation Title and the Forestry Title — fared well. The Farm Bill provides more than $1 billion for conservation, exceeding all other federal sources of conservation funding, and continues to help farmers, ranchers and forest owners care for their lands. Stewardship Contracting was given permanent authority as well, providing much needed assistance to the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management for restoring our forests.Fire Suppression Funding
BOTH THE SENATE and the House have introduced, with bipartisan support, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act which seeks to improve the way the U.S. Forest Service and Department of the Interior funds the response to emergency fires. For the first time, the bill would create an emergency funding process for fire response that operates in a similar way to the funding mechanism FEMA uses to respond to other natural disasters. This structure would prevent “borrowing” from other U.S. Forest Service and Department of the Interior programs that disrupts a wide variety of projects, some of which help reduce the risk of future intense wildfires. The president’s fiscal year 2015 budget reflects the funding mechanisms within the legislation.Appropriations FY15
THE CYCLE for fiscal year 2015 started while it seemed like the ink was still wet on the fiscal year 2014 Appropriations Bill. The President’s Budget was released on March 4, 2014 indicating where the administration’s conservation priorities lay. In line with his Climate Action Plan, this budget highlighted the efforts across agencies to address the impacts of climate change on our forests. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was fully funded, and a $1 billion Climate Resiliency Fund was created to invest in research and help communities plan and prepare for the impacts of climate change. The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLR) was allocated $60 million, $20 million over its authorized cap, and up to 10 more landscape-scale projects will be added. American Forests is also pleased that the Bureau of Land Management Public Domain Forest Management also saw an increase from fiscal year 2014 enacted levels, given that recent cuts have reduced their ability to complete much-needed restoration efforts. Of concern is the again-reduced amount allocated to the Urban and Community Forestry (U&CF) program and the Community Forest and Open Space Conservation program, as well as the reduction in funds to Forest Service Research and Development.
American Forests will continue to advocate for our priorities to protect and restore forests, supporting many of the efforts the administration put forward in their budget, as well as requesting more funding for programs where it is needed. American Forests President and CEO Scott Steen testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies on April 10, 2014 regarding these priorities.
Rebecca Turner writes from Washington, D.C., and is American Forests’ senior director of programs and policy.
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