Gorte Specialist in Natural Resources Policy
Megan Stubbs Analyst in Agricultural Conservation and Natural Resources Policy
Department of Agriculture (USDA) has numerous programs to support management of state
and private forests. These programs are under the jurisdiction of the
Agriculture Committees and are often examined in the periodic legislation
to reauthorize agricultural programs, commonly known as farm bills. The
2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246) included a forestry title with numerous provisions,
and forestry activities were included in several other titles, as well.
Congress might oversee the implementation as well as the funding of these
Forestry-specific assistance programs (in contrast to agriculture conservation
programs that include forestry activities) are primarily administered by
the USDA Forest Service (FS), with permanent authorization of funding as
needed. Some programs provide technical assistance— information, advice,
and aid on specific projects. Other programs provide financial assistance, usually
through grants (with or without matching contributions from recipients) or
cost-sharing (typically though state agencies, with varying levels of
contributions from recipients). Many programs provide both.
Most of the programs provide assistance to the states. The state agencies can
use the assistance on state forestlands or to assist local governments or
private landowners. How the states use the funds is largely at the
discretion of the states, within the authorizations of each program; however, the
2008 farm bill added national priorities for state assistance and state-wide
assessments and strategies to focus state efforts on achieving the
national priorities. Funds are appropriated for planning and implementing
forestry and related land management practices—site preparation for reforestation,
tree planting, thinning, pruning, fertilizing, prescribed burning, restoring watersheds,
improving wildlife habitats, and other activities. Other programs provide
support for protecting forestlands from wildfires, insects and diseases,
and from clearing forests for nonforest uses (such as growing crops or
building houses). Two programs are designed specifically to assist
landowners to recover or restore forests following catastrophic events, such as
wildfires. Additional programs provide economic assistance for communities
in or near federal forests whose economies have traditionally relied on
forests and forest resources. In addition, International Forestry is often
included as a forestry assistance program, because it provides technical
forestry help and because it has often been funded out of FS appropriations for
forestry assistance programs.
Finally, states are authorized to request consolidated payments, for
flexibility in program administration, and several coordinating or
advisory groups exist to coordinate programs or for specific purposes
under one or more programs.
Funding for the forest management assistance programs—forest stewardship and
urban and community forestry—has remained relatively constant over the
past five years. Forest protection programs—forest health (for insect and
disease identification and control), fire assistance, and forest legacy
(for easements to prevent forest clearing)—grew substantially in 2001, and have remained
at relatively high levels. For the first time in several years, forest recovery
programs have begun to receive intermittent funding, primarily through
supplemental appropriation acts. Funding for economic assistance programs
has declined after peaking in FY2001.
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