Thursday, March 22, 2018

Wildfire Funding Fix

Photo: Alan Taylor
I received the below update from the American Forest Foundation today and thought I would share it with my readers.  It appears Congress may finally fix the wildlife funding issue.  You may be asking yourself, "How does this impact me, PA is not a big wildlife state?"  Yes, you are correct, PA certainly doe not have a wildfire season that comes close to some of our western states.  But, what this means for Pennsylvania landowners is that Forest Service program dollars will no longer be taken to fund fire suppression.  Fire suppression will have it's own separate budget, hopefully under FEMA.  Forest Service programs provide valuable assistance to help landowners implement on the ground practices.

Key Provisions
·    Creates a new funding mechanism through the disaster cap for wildfire starting in FY 2020 at $2.25 billion and increases to $2.95 billion in FY 2027 to account for projected increases in wildfire costs and to prevent borrowing from non-fire programs.
·    Freezes the Forest Service budget for suppression activities at the FY 2015 level to stop the shifting of funds away from non-fire programs at the beginning of the budgeting process.
·    Adjusts the overall disaster cap level by adding additional funds through FY 2021 to ensure that there is enough funding for all federal agencies accessing the disaster cap.
·    Includes an additional $500 million in FY 2018 beyond the 10-year average to help pay for suppression costs until access to the disaster cap begins in FY 2020.

The full news release is provided below.

American Forest Foundation

Yesterday, after weeks of intense negotiations, Congressional leaders, released their FY2018 Appropriations Bill, including a comprehensive wildfire funding fix to the budgetary challenges within the U.S. Forest Service and Department of the Interior. We anticipate Congress will pass this legislation later this week.

This is a milestone victory for family forest owners, the forestry community and our partners nationwide who care for our forests. This bi-partisan fix will address both the budgetary erosion that has shrunk many U.S. Forest Service programs over the last 10 years, as well as the ‘fire borrowing’ from other programs when funds have been exhausted.

For all of you that have helped with advocacy to make the case for this long-awaited fix - thank you. This policy change would not have happened without support from Members of Congress on Capitol Hill, Governors, and the hardworking Congressional staff that have put in hours upon hours of time in negotiations. These leaders on both sides of the aisle were spurred into action by your calls, Hill visits, letters, tweets and more.

While most Americans think of our wildfire and wildfire funding challenges as a public lands issue, it also, very much, affects private lands and private and family forest owners. Before this policy change, funds to fight wildfires were eating up more than 50 percent of the U.S. Forest Service budget, causing other programs, such as those that support family forest owners, to suffer. This comprehensive fix will ensure we can fight wildfires without reducing funds from other programs each year. This will help to end the ‘fire borrowing’ habit, which robs non-wildfire programs mid-year of funding causing sporadic land management. This fix will also allow the U.S. Forest Service and Department of the Interior to treat catastrophic wildfires as the natural disasters they are, using disaster funding to help pay for a portion of their suppression costs.

Ultimately, this policy fix will mean the vital assistance programs for family forest owners that are part of the U.S. Forest Service budget, can operate as needed to help owners implement important forest practices that will get ahead of wildfires, insects and diseases, and the many other challenges we face.

Finally, while this is huge progress, we at AFF will continue to work with Members of Congress on programs and policies that will help family forest owners in addressing our continued forest challenges – such as invasive species, insect epidemics and the overwhelming costs of forest treatments to help reduce fuel loads in our forests. We envision a day when all forest owners have the tools they need to keep their forests healthy and resilient so that these forests continue to provide the clean water, wildlife habitat and sustainable wood supply all Americans need.

Thank you again for your effort on this issue. It is well deserved.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Look for Beech Leaf Disease

photo by Carrie Ewing

We Need Your Help Spotting This Disease! Look for signs of beech leaf disease using this guide. Although the causal agent hasn't been identified yet, this disease has been contributing to American beech decline and mortality across northeastern Ohio, northwestern Pennsylvania, and southwestern New York.

It has also been found in Chautauqua County in southwestern New York and along the north shore of Lake Erie in Ontario. BLD affects American beech (Fagus grandifolia), European beech (F. sylvatica), Oriental beech (F. orientalis), and possibly Chinese beech (F. engleriana) and Korean beech (F. crenata).

Very early symptoms include dark striped bands between lateral veins of leaves and reduced leaf size. As symptoms progress, aborted buds, reduced leaf production, and premature leaf drop lead to an overall reduction in canopy cover, ultimately resulting in death of sapling-sized trees within 2-5 years.

Contact your local forest health specialist or State Departments of Agriculture and Forestry if you observe symptoms of beech leaf disease. In Pennsylvania, contact the DCNR Bureau of Forestry, Division of Forest Health.