U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell addressed the challenges and opportunities facing the agency’s forest management efforts in testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
“We must manage and restore more acres to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire, to address insects and disease, and to restore the ecological health of forests for the benefit of all Americans,” said Tidwell. “We know we cannot achieve all of this without a strong integrated forest products industry that can use all parts and sizes of trees to help us accomplish our restoration work.”
Tidwell said the Forest Service continues to explore new and existing tools to become more efficient on the 193 million acres it manages. This exploration includes a review of business practices around timber sales, becoming more efficient in its environmental review processes, and implementing a landscape-scale adaptive approach to treating existing and new pine beetle infestations, among other tools.
Restoring the health and resilience of the nation’s forests generates important amenity values. For example, through implementation of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program – which relies heavily on stewardship contracting – projects on national forests and grasslands maintained 4,174 jobs and generated more than $147 million in labor income in fiscal year 2012.
Wood energy projects also make forest harvests more economically viable by providing a productive use for previously undervalued woody biomass. The USDA Wood-to-Energy Initiative combines programs from the Forest Service and USDA Rural Development to expand renewable wood energy use, from rural community schools, hospitals, and National Guard facilities across the country.
This Forest Service press release expands on Tidwell’s testimony.