A recent proposal by Congress would extend a rule to ensure continuous funds for forest restoration for the foreseeable future.
The Forest Stewardship and Fire Fuels Reduction Act of 2011 is this proposal. It offers the permanent reauthorization of using local contractors to help restore forests. Stewardship End Result Contracting has been used for the last ten years to reduce the hazard of overgrown vegetation in forests. The program is funded by national forests exchanging trees for restoration work by local contractors.
Our national forest system has become unhealthy due to decades of fire suppression and the mismanagement of our resources. To protect communities and create functioning healthy forests, the Forest Service opted to mechanically thin potentially dangerous areas. By giving contractors the opportunity to cut overcrowded and dense forests it allows the ecosystem to get back to natural fire conditions.
In the past the Forest Service used timber sales to fund necessary restoration projects. Unfortunately this process lacked sufficient funding to properly restore forests. If a timber sale undersold on the market, the USFS would have to cut program funding to fit within the budget.
To battle this problem Congress created a new way to fund restoration. The Forest Service would value a set of trees and allow private contractors to do restoration in exchange. In return these groups would have to restore the forest equal to the value of the sale. This allowed trees of a high economic value to be thinned to scientific standards set by the Forest Service, removal of roads that hurt the water quality of streams, road re-contouring and removal, installation of fish friendly culverts, and repairing of campgrounds.
TWS members can help by contacting their locals representative and saying they support H.R. 2601. The current law expires at the end of the fiscal year, September 30, and speedy reauthorization would ensure the ability to use the 21st century tool for our national forests.