Magazine article American Forests

New Way Needed for Environment

Magazine article American Forests

New Way Needed for Environment

Article excerpt

We have to change how we conduct the country's most important business: restoring the natural world and its connection to people.

The President's proposed budget for FY2009 slashes restoration for the nation's forests. That tells me it's time for a new framework for the environment in Washington.

AMERICAN FORESTS' March testimony before the House Appropriations subcommittee showed the Forest Service to be an agency with a broad, grand vision-as reflected in its Strategic Plan and Chief Kimball's priorities-but one with a narrow and misguided budget. It's a budget skewed towards just national forests and timber management.

Keeping the cost of catastrophic wildfire from draining the agency's other programs is the goal of the FLAME Act just introduced by Reps. Nick J. Rahall II (D-WV), Haul Grijalva (D-AZ), and Norman Dicks (D-WA). It provides supplemental emergency funds to pay for the 1 percent of wildfires that annually burn through 85 percent of the land and 95 percent of fire-fighting funds.

The proposed 60 percent cut in state and private forestry affects the two-thirds of our nation's forests that aren't part of our national forests. Cooperative forestry-the outreach function for state and private-would be slashed by 81 percent.

That means zero funding for economic action programs that help communities build local economies based on making healthier forests. It means more than 85 percent less funding for stewardship that helps landowners convert land back into forests.

It means a reduction of 76 percent for forest legacy that enables communities to protect forestland. And it means an 82 percent cut in urban forestry, the forests where more than 80 percent of Americans live, work, and play.

We believe the role of the Forest Service should be to keep forests as forests-everywhere. Clearly, the President doesn't agree.

Maybe the Forest Service should care about just those 191 million acres in national forests and not have the authorities and funds for the other programs. Those funds could be seed money to create a new way to do the country's most important business: restoring the natural world and its connection to people. Those funds could start up a Cabinet-level Department of the Environment that would care about the entire ecosystem. …

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