Is Restoration Forestry in the Stimulus Bill?

The Senate-House Conference Report on the Stimulus Bill has a small section (out of 1,000+ pages) devoted to US Forest Service capital improvement and maintenance and wildfire management.



The conference agreement provides $650,000,000 for Capital Improvement and Maintenance as proposed by both the House and the Senate. The conference agreement provides flexibility to the agency in determining the allocation of this funding among various program activities and sub-activities. The conferees encourage that selection of individual projects be based on a prioritization process which weighs the capacity of proposals to create the largest number of jobs in the shortest period of time and which create lasting value for the American public. While maximizing jobs, the Service should consider projects involving reconstruction, capital improvement, decommissioning, and maintenance of forest roads, bridges and trails; alternative energy technologies, and deferred maintenance at Federal facilities; and remediation of abandoned mine sites, and other related critical habitat, forest improvement and watershed enhancement projects.


The conference agreement provides $500,000,000 for Wildland Fire Management instead of $485,000,000 proposed by the Senate and $850,000,000 proposed by the House. This includes $250,000,000 for hazardous fuels reduction, forest health protection, rehabilitation and hazard mitigation activities on Federal lands and $250,000,000 for cooperative activities to benefit State and private lands. The conference agreement provides flexibility to the Service to allocate funds among existing State and private assistance programs to choose programs that provide the maximum public benefit. The Conferees encourage the Service to select individual projects based on a prioritization process which weighs the capacity of proposals to create the largest number of jobs in the shortest period of time and to create lasting value for the American public. The bill allows the Service to use up to $50,000,000 to make competitive grants for the purpose of creating incentives for increased use of biomass from federal and non-federal forested lands. To better address current economic conditions at the state and local level, funds provided for State and private forestry activities shall not be subject to matching or cost share requirements.

What does all that mean?

First, the word “restoration” is nowhere to be found. Restoration is akin to “hazardous fuels reduction, forest health protection, rehabilitation and hazard mitigation” but it is so much more than that.

Restoration forestry is science- and history-based active management that protects, maintains, and perpetuates the structures and functions of reference landscape conditions in order to achieve multiple goals, including enhancement of fire resiliency, protection of wildlife habitat and populations, recognition and preservation of heritage tribal sites, protection and enhancement of watershed functions, improvement of recreation opportunities, and enhancement of public health and safety in a sustainable manner.

Restoration forestry focuses treatment actions on thinning, strategic fuel breaks, and the use of prescribed fire in prepared stands to modify fire behavior that maximize the retention of large trees and recreate historical forest development pathways that led to modern old-growth.

Restoration forestry also reduces fuels and carbon losses due to wildfire, enhances carbon sequestering in wood products, productive forests, and in soils to reduce atmospheric carbon emissions, produces wood products and biomass energy, and benefits local economies. However, the concept and practice of restoration forestry is more than fuels management and firewood production. It entails a holistic view of landscapes as living ecosystems and strives to sustain the essential elements that translate to ecosystem values of heritage, habitat, watershed, and community well-being.

The Stimulus Bill lacks any statement regarding the particulars of restoration; it avoids the mention of the word altogether.

In contrast, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (S.22) awaiting passage includes Title IV — Forest Landscape Restoration [here]. Title IV does use the word “restoration” throughout, and approaches the holistic concept to some degree.

Appropriate and ecologically-sensitive restoration forestry applied on a landscape scale would meet and satisfy all the criteria in the Stimulus Bill. It would also prevent catastrophic holocausts such as the recent and ongoing Australian fires and the repeated megafire destruction that has visited American forests over the last twenty years.

Granted, it is difficult if not impossible for our Congress to grasp the key ideas behind restoration forestry. But the US Forest Service should be able to understand and implement technical restoration forestry on a landscape scale, particularly now that the start-up funding has been appropriated.

They might need some public encouragement in that regard. It might help if you called or wrote your local District Ranger and Forest Supervisor and told them that restoration forestry is what they need to be doing. They need to hear that. They need to know that the public desires more than fuels management, that the holistic, scientific approach of restoration forestry is preferable.



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