is one of many small streams in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia.
Elklick Run is one of many small streams in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. © Kent Mason

Policy

America's Forests: Strengthening Natural Infrastructure

Forests Need Federal Investment

America’s forests are home to the world’s tallest, biggest and oldest trees, but without sensible investments in stewardship and forestry, the nation stands to lose the forest benefits it depends on every day.

American forests are critical to the economy, public health and environment. The nation's forests:

  • Store and filter more than half of the nation’s water supply.
  • Provide jobs to more than 1 million forest product workers.
  • Offer 1 million square miles to sportsmen and families for outdoor recreation.
  • Generate $13.6 billion in recreation-based economic activity from national forests alone.
  • Are habitat to thousands of forest-dependent wildlife and plant species.
  • Are a major carbon sink that sequesters 15% of all fossil fuel emissions in the United States.

Nearly half of America’s forests are publicly owned, highlighting the need for collaborative, active management. But today’s megafires, pests and drought are decimating the nation's forests. A 2018 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service estimates an area larger than Oregon is in need of restoration to maintain services for people, water and wildlife—and that is on Forest Service lands alone.

Strong investment in forest restoration, collaborative stewardship, research and wildfire prevention programs will help improve the productivity of the country's forests.

Congress took a major step toward stabilizing Forest Service and Department of the Interior (DOI) budgets with the enactment of the Wildfire and Disaster Funding Adjustment in the FY18 Consolidated Appropriations Act. Implementation of this new fire funding authority must include both of the following:

  • Funding suppression at the FY15 levels ($1.011 billion for USDA and $384 million for DOI) from discretionary accounts.
  • Funding levels above the FY15 levels from the new wildfire budget cap adjustment, calculated using improved predictive modeling.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) recommends Congress reinvest savings back into agency programs that would increase the pace and scale of restoration and reduce wildfire risk. TNC prioritizes the following appropriation allocations for forest programs:

• The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 enacted a new Watersource Protection Program. TNC recommends providing the agency funding to undergo rulemaking as required by law.
* The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 extended the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program through 2023 and increased the authorized funding level to $80 million.
** Includes $20 million for a new Reforestation Initiative.
*** Legacy Roads and Trails is not funded in the FY19 appropriations bill. The agency is directed to continue to track the program through the regular roads program.