The Nature Conservancy commends the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry for highlighting the links between forest health and rural economies. Restoring public lands through science-based, active management is good for our American lands and economy.
America’s forests, which cover one-third of the United States, provide tremendous value by storing and filtering half our nation’s water supply; providing jobs to 900,000 wood products workers; absorbing 13% of US carbon emissions; generating more than $13 billion in recreation and other related economic activity on U.S. Forest Service lands alone; and providing habitat to thousands of wildlife and plant species.
Unfortunately the Forest Service estimates that up to 82 million acres of land entrusted to its management— a forested area the size of Colorado and New York states combined— are in need of immediate restoration. Last year more than nine million acres burned in the United States, only the third time this has occurred since 1960 (all have occurred since 2006). Today much of the West is in drought condition, with NOAA predicting these conditions continuing through June.
This year Congress has the opportunity to help address these challenges by reauthorizing a 10-year program, called Stewardship Contracting that engages private businesses to restore America’s forests. In FY2012 this program provided 25% of all timber produced off Forest Service lands, its largest amount to date, while also welcoming its largest single contract (more than 300,000 forested acres in Arizona).
A similar, smaller program working to improve the health of America’s forests, known as the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, illuminates the connections between forest restoration and jobs. With an FY12 investment of $40 million, the program created and maintained 4,754 jobs and generated nearly $320 million in business income for participating states Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Last year the program leveraged $40 million of federal investment to achieve an additional $45.4 million worth of restoration work.
“We cannot allow the ten-year momentum of Stewardship Contracting to lapse, when so clearly we are facing mounting wildfire risks, pest outbreaks, and economic challenges,” said Chris Topik, director of Restoring America’s Forests for The Nature Conservancy.
“The program allows us to work towards two goals at the same time—supporting the life-giving services of healthy forests while also supporting the livelihoods of people in our rural communities. Stewardship Contracting is a clear net benefit to people, water, and wildlife.”
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