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National Association of State Foresters survey points to its key roles in the US

The latest survey by the National Association of State Foresters in the US has found that state forestry agencies continue to play key roles in protecting and enhancing America’s forested landscapes even in the face of modern challenges, including COVID-19, catastrophic wildfire, and economic uncertainty. Source: Timberbiz

Among other important findings, the National Association of State Foresters’ newly released

2020 biennial survey report identifies the top five most significant issues state forestry agencies expect to contend with in coming years. Those chief concerns, as ranked by the directors of forestry agencies in all 50 states and the District Columbia, were:

  • responding to pest and disease outbreaks
  • managing wildfire risk,
  • strengthening forest markets
  • minimizing forest fragmentation/conversion/development, and
  • reducing the impacts of climate change.

“It is remarkable, really, that state forestry agencies were able to continue addressing these top issues and to such great effect during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic,” said Christopher Martin, NASF president and Connecticut state forester.

“COVID-19 significantly complicated our agencies’ wildfire suppression operations and nearly halted forest product supply chains nationwide in 2020. It also forced our agencies to quickly retool in-person state and private forestry programming and modify many of our mechanisms for delivering conservation education and stewardship assistance.”

“Developing new protocols and programs that would work in the ‘new normal’ was difficult to do,” President Martin continued, “but based on the results of the 2020 State Foresters by the Numbers report, I can confidently say that state forestry agencies were able to adapt in record time.”

Every two years, Industry Insights helps NASF survey its state forester members to capture key information on how their agencies are enhancing the value of non-federal forestlands nationwide through programs specific to forest health and stewardship, wildfire preparedness and prevention, and more.

This information helps state foresters and their partners to allocate resources more effectively and plan for the future together.

Per the latest biennial survey, nearly 27,000 state forestry agency employees worked year-round in 2020 to keep the nations forests growing.

In fact, state forestry agencies provided nearly 250,000 technical assists to private forest landowners, the report found, despite restrictions imposed by the pandemic.

“State foresters and the agencies they lead are integral to active forest management in the United States,”said Joe Fox, Arkansas state forester and NASF immediate past president. “Over 90% of wood harvested in the US is grown on private lands, and according to the most recent data, state forestry agencies are the primary providers of technical assistance to America’s forestland owners. This science-based assistance, which includes one-on-one, site-specific, long-term planning support focuses on each landowner’s unique management priorities, while protecting water quality, providing wildlife habitat, and improving overall forest health.”

Notably, state spending on urban and community forestry programming also increased 32% to US$11 million in 2020 compared with 2018.

The majority of 2020 program expenditures were spent on non-state lands and most went toward wildland fire management activities, including wildfire suppression and preparedness. While total expenditures in 2020 mirrored 2018, watershed and water quality protection expenditures increased 63% compared with 2018, in large part due to enhanced funding for these activities in western states.

State forestry agencies also provided funding to state and local wildland firefighters for fire suppression equipment and assisted with the formation and expansion of hundreds of volunteer fire departments.