THE PRESIDENT delivered his detailed budget proposal to Congress in late May, drastically cutting and zeroing out forestry and conservation programs important to American Forests’ work in urban and native forest landscapes. This proposal clearly shows what the Administration deems important and what it does not. While American Forests understands the desire to reduce government spending, cutting vital programs that produce tangible results, leverage private funds and make our communities stronger is not the best way to reach that goal. These programs help create jobs in the communities that need them the most, engage people with their forests, enhance wildlife habitat and protect our watersheds.
To ensure these proposed levels do not make it into the Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations bill, we reached out to our Congressional friends on both sides of the aisle, advocating strongly to return these programs to their existing funding levels. Many Republican appropriators admonished the Administration for such drastic cuts across the land management agencies, further proving that forest issues are not partisan.
Here are a few of these programs and why they are important to our work:
THE TREES WHERE WE LIVE: Urban and Community Forestry (U&CF) plays an integral part in promoting sound stewardship of our nation’s urban and community forests and trees. By providing important technical and financial support, U&CF helps cities and towns across the nation enhance tree and forest cover, prepare for storms and other disturbance events, contain threats from native and invasive pests, and maximize the economic, social and ecological benefits of their tree resources.
CONNECTING TOWNS TO THEIR FORESTS: Community Forests and Open Space (CFP) has made substantial progress in preserving forests by increasing opportunities for Americans
to connect with forests in their own communities and fostering new public-private partnerships. CFP has supported nearly three dozen community forest projects in cities and towns across 17 states and territories.
KEEPING FORESTS WORKING AND THRIVING: Since authorization in 1990, the Forest Legacy Program has protected 2.61 million acres of private forests through voluntary conservation easements. It is imperative to continue protecting our nation’s forests for future generations. Although still in private ownership, these lands provide a myriad of ecosystem services to Americans today.
LARGE-SCALE FOREST MANAGEMENT WITH PARTNERS: The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) was created to promote job stability, a reliable wood supply and forest health while reducing emergency wildfire costs and risks. As of 2017, the CFLRP has met or exceeded its targets for a majority of performance measures, including timber volume sold, hazardous fuels reduction and wildlife habitat improved, and is on track to meeting its lifetime goals over its 10- year timeframe.
COORDINATING CONSERVATION ACROSS THE LANDSCAPE: The 22 distinct Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs), which in total encompass the entire United States, are playing an essential role in bringing together federal, state, local and private sector conservation efforts. The LCCs foster effective natural resource conservation and good governance by helping to assure that public and private investments in conservation science, planning and implementation are well coordinated across sectors and political boundaries.
Thankfully, our concerns were heard by House Appropriators, and we saw programs that were drastically cut return to near-level funding. The Senate Interior Appropriations bill is expected in early September once Congress returns from recess. With the fiscal year ending the last day of September, we are expecting to see a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government running as Congress comes to agreement on the final appropriation levels.
Rebecca Turner writes from Washington, D.C., and is American Forests’ senior director of programs and policy.