Magazine article American Forests

Urging Congress to Protect Our Forests

Magazine article American Forests

Urging Congress to Protect Our Forests

Article excerpt

ON CAPITOL HILL, spring is about more than cherry blossoms. It's when Congress begins the critical process of budgeting and planning for federal priorities for the next year. This year, we have been sounding the alarm because America's forests are in crisis. We are witnessing their loss and destruction at a staggering rate. As a nation, unless we change the way we manage them, we will lose them.

Our forests are struggling to adapt to a changing climate - to extreme drought, low humidity, high winds and shortened "cold spells." These extremes produce dramatic tree mortality and high intensity wildfires in the West and changing tree species composition and declining forest health in the East. To adapt forests to this "new normal" will often require more active forest management, including harvesting dead and dying trees, reforestation, reintroducing controlled fire and other measures. More active forest management will require increased federal and private investment and level of effort sufficient to halt this crisis.

Unfortunately, the Administration's budget for fiscal year 2020 did the opposite. It proposed significant cuts or complete elimination to critical forestry programs. This spring, we testified to Congress and asked them to consider what is at stake. In California's forests, more than 147 million trees have died since 2010, with roughly 85 percent of those located in the Sierra Nevada. If Congress continues with "business as usual," many areas will experience fires so intense that they cannot be reforested and will transition to a shrub ecosystem. …

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