More green jobs in the forest for communities

A few months ago, President Obama signed legislation to help communities revitalize forests and boost economies. The law sets the stage for Congress to provide funding so the Forest Landscape Restoration Act (FLRA) can put additional shovels on the ground next year.

It offers communities the opportunity to work together to look at larger scale, long-term restoration activities that benefit both forests and communities.

There’s a backlog of work to be done, doing road decommissioning, culvert removal or replacement to open fish passage barriers and, clearing out dense overgrowth that can fuel uncharacteristic wildfires.

These are the kinds of projects Congress had in mind when it authorized a yearly budget of $40 million a year for the next 10 years. Creating a program and authorizing a funding level, though, only lays the foundation for the program. The Wilderness Society is now working to convince Congress to follow through with funding in the 2010 budget. In its first year, we recommend a $20 million appropriation to establish the new Forest Landscape Restoration program. In following years, we will push for full funding to take restoration actions on the ground.

If successful, the FLRA would provide a process for funding up to 10 restoration projects a year. To be eligible for consideration, a proposed project would target at least 50,000 acres of (primarily national) forest. Proposals would be evaluated for their abilities to maximize economic and ecological benefits. Proposals would also draw expertise from a local advisory group and a panel of national scientific experts.

Each project would emphasize stewardship actions to improve wildlife habitats, watershed functions and vegetation composition, where commercial products may be sold – if it is compatible with restoration goals.

Our national forest program associate, Cecilia Clavet, summed up the issue well:

“Congress deserves credit for establishing good management strategies for the Forest Service, but now they, along with President Obama, need to allocate funding so the agency can carry out these restoration projects.”