February 3, 2012 (Arlington, Virginia) — The Nature Conservancy strongly endorses today’s announcement by the U.S. Forest Service to increase the pace of forest restoration by 20% over the next three years in our National Forests. The Conservancy also congratulates the 13 forest sites that will receive restoration investments to improve forests for people, water, and wildlife.
“We share the Secretary’s commitment to collaborative forest and watershed action,” said Chris Topik, director of Restoring America’s Forests for The Nature Conservancy. “The announcement today shows there is hope for America’s forests. Shared investments by a wide range of partners will pay off with increased wildlife habitat, increased water supply and quality, more forest products jobs, and a sustainable rural economy that restores and protects our wonderful American forest heritage. The Nature Conservancy knows that millions of acres of forests need help, but science-based, community level action can make a real difference.”
Ten of the thirteen new sites will be supported by the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP). In its first year CFLRP helped create and maintain 1,550 jobs, $59 million in labor income, produced 107 million board feet of timber, and made 100,000 acres safer from destructive fires.
In combination, the 13 new forest restoration sites are projected to help maintain and create 3,300 jobs and save $220 million in fire-fighting costs. They will also enhance value derived from recreational activities on Forest Service lands, estimated to contribute $14.5 billion a year to the American economy.
Six of the forest restoration projects are already active in the Fire Learning Network, a cooperative program of the Forest Service, Department of the Interior, and The Nature Conservancy. The partnership has a ten-year proven track record of helping to restore our nation’s forests and grasslands and to make communities safer from fire. The Network launched in 2002 and served as a model for the legislation that created CFLRP in 2009.
At a national scale forests cover one-third of the United States; store and filter half the nation’s water supply; provide jobs to more than a million wood products workers; absorb nearly 20% of U.S. carbon emissions; offer 650 million acres of recreational lands that generate well over $15 billion in economic activity annually; and provide habitat for thousands of species across the country.
“These investments in restoring America’s forests will provide real benefits that we breathe, drink, and feel in our everyday lives,” offered Laura McCarthy of The Nature Conservancy and chair of the CFLRP Coalition. “By supporting CFLRP, the Forest Service and Congress are directly helping Americans in their lives and livelihoods.”
In addition to investments in 13 new forest restoration sites, The Nature Conservancy also strongly supports other measures the Forest Service will undertake to increase restoration:
1) Improving NEPA efficiencies for large scale projects;
2) Increasing timber volume from restoration projects;
3) Implementing an “Integrated Resource Restoration” budget to focus investment on the most efficient restoration projects.
“We believe the use of stewardship contracts to help pay for restoration work, and the use of the Integrated Resource Restoration budgeting will improve internal and stakeholder collaboration,” added Topik.
Forest restoration work is particularly needed today. A century of suppressing natural wildfires has resulted in unhealthy forests choked with small trees and brush that can lead to destructive mega-fires. Over the last 50 years the United States has only had 5 years with more than 8 million acres burned—all of them are in the last 7 years (including 2011).
Pests and pathogens are decimating wild, managed, and urban forests nationwide. Bark beetles alone have killed a New Jersey-sized swath of trees.
A legacy of poorly planned logging roads, sprawling development, and a changing climate with extensive droughts is further knocking forests off-balance.
The Forest Service estimates that 65-82 million acres of forests—an area the size of Colorado and West Virginia combined—are in need of immediate restoration.
Copies of the 2010 CFLRP Annual Report can be requested from Jon Schwedler of the CFLRP Coalition at email@example.com. Information on CFLRP can be found at the U.S. Forest Service’s website: http://www.fs.fed.us/restoration/CFLR/.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
The Nature Conservancy