Washington, DC (July 1, 2007)- The US Forest Service has released information about the redesign and reorganization of the agency’s State and Private Forestry division, responsible for assistance to non-federal forest lands, including urban forests.
As land ownership patterns have changed and as forest lands have becoming increasingly fragmented, the Forest Service has decided to make a change in the way the agency delivers forestry assistance. The agency is making a shift to emphasize integrated solutions across the landscape and will deliver a greater share of its assistance programs via competitive, project-based funding.
The agency also plans to prioritize and focus its resources on three main themes:
* Conserve working forest landscapes
* Protect forests from harm
* Enhance benefits from trees and forests
How will the redesign affect Urban and Community Forestry programs?
Urban and Community Forestry has an important part to play in addressing all three national themes. For example: Forests on the edge of suburban areas may be conserved as working “community forests” that provide recreational and ecological service benefits to the surrounding community. Urban foresters, arborists, and trained “citizen foresters” are an important front line defense against invasive and exotic pests that threaten forest systems. Urban forests comprise 25% of our nation’s forest resource, providing valuable water, air, climate, and recreational benefit to our nation’s population.
While there is no question that U&CF is an important dimension to the three national themes, the S&PF redesign will mean significant changes to the way that programs have been delivered in the past.
Changes that you may expect:
* Within five years, 65% of federal funds will be allocated competitively to the states. States will be encouraged to cooperative with each other to submit multi-state projects of regional significance.
* U&CF will be integrated and connected to other forest stewardship activities, rather than being delivered through its own separate silo.
* U&CF projects that emphasize regional scale solutions will be prioritized for support over isolated or small-scale projects.
* Priorities will be reflected in State Assessments and State Response Plans. Federal assistance will be delivered in a more flexible way to allow states to address their unique priorities.
* Open space preservation and the creation of interconnected green networks will receive increased attention from the U&CF program.
* Canopy assessment and GIS mapping that reveals “the big picture” will be increasingly important for addressing all forest concerns, whether urban or rural.
* Urban forest management training and technical assistance will remain an important priority in many states, especially in populous and/or high growth states with rapid urbanization.
How will this affect Urban and Community Forestry grants for community projects?
* Your state will receive less “base” federal funding specifically tasked for U&CF functions. However, in the future your state may receive increased federal funding on a competitive basis to address landscape level concerns which could include U&CF.
* Your state grant making programs may shift based on State Assessments and State Response Plans.
* It will be important for U&CF experts to be “at the table” along with traditional forestry experts in drafting State Response Plans, since they will strongly shape state priorities.
* Working at a regional scale to engage many partners in a broad plan for urban forest restoration will be increasingly important.
* Beginning in federal fiscal year 2008, USFS regions will award 15% of program funds competitively. Now is a good time to contact your state forester or state urban forest coordinator to pitch your ideas for regional projects that you think could make a bigger impact. Local cooperators may not apply directly for this assistance, however, working in partnership as a collaborator with your state agency, you may be able to access these competitive funds.
Public comments on the S&PF redesign may be directed to the Forest Service throughout the month of July.
US Forest Service Cooperative Forestry
Redesign Briefing- June 2007
Redesign Briefing- March 2007
Redesign State Assessment
Redesign Programs and Staffing