Speaking up for America’s Forests

orest trail at Dolly Sods Wilderness South. The Dolly Sods Wilderness is a U.S. Wilderness Area in the Allegheny Mountains of eastern West Virginia and part of the Monongahela National Forest The Nature Conservancy has acquired and protected thousands of acres in the Monongahela forest. The northeast end of the Federal land at Dolly Sods is bordered by the Bear Rocks Nature Preserve, owned by The Nature Conservancy. Dolly Sods and Bear Rocks Preserve are adjoining areas of incomparable beauty that are comprised of high plateaus above 4000 ft. and steep-walled stream valleys. The area was originally covered with a thick spruce forest but was aggressively logged in the early 20th century. Today the area is dominated by broad plains covered with heath and grasses, with many bogs. Hardwoods dominate the lower elevations but the spruce forest is coming back at higher elevations. PHOTO CREDIT: © Kent Mason
This is from the TNC blog here.

The following is a guest post written by Chris Topik. Chris has spent his entire career working to restore America’s forests. Today he serves as director of The Nature Conservancy’s Restoring America’s Forests program. Previously he worked as staff for the House Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, and also as a 16-year-employee for the Forest Service in Oregon, Washington and Washington, DC.

“A people without children would face a hopeless future;
a country without trees is almost as helpless.”
-Theodore Roosevelt

The stock market has plunged to half its value. Unemployment has doubled. And the President struggles to rebuild the economy of a politically divided country.

The scene may feel familiar to us today, but this was the world of President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt in 1907.

Yet by the end of his presidency President Roosevelt could reflect back on a recovered economy, an assertive global presence, markets freed from monopolies and more lands and waters conserved than any President before or since.

Of those herculean accomplishments won during tough economic times, none has forwarded greater benefits to us today than Roosevelt’s attention to the nation’s outdoors. Through the creation of the U.S. Forest Service and other conservation initiatives, Roosevelt established a natural framework that continues to provide life-giving benefits to America.

For example, this year we celebrate the centennial of one of Roosevelt’s signature outdoor legacies, the Weeks Act of 1911. This Act, sponsored by Representative John Wingate Weeks of Massachusetts, created 52 National Forests east of the Mississippi and set a precedent for collaboration on all Forest Service lands throughout the nation.

The greatest gift of the Weeks Act, however, may be it proved we can accomplish epic improvements to the health of our lands for generations to come — if the will still exists to realize them.

With an estimated 120 million acres of American forests in need of immediate restoration today (the size of California and Maine combined), a stalling economy and perhaps an even more stagnant political environment — the question is, do we still own that epic will?

Thankfully, a new report released today (pdf) suggests the answer is “yes!” This first-year analysis of the new Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) further offers tangible results backing up that sentiment.

In just one year, from just 10 National Forest projects, CFLRP achieved the following:

Created and maintained 1,550 jobs;
Produced 107 million board feet of timber;
Generated nearly $59 million of labor income;
Removed fuel for destructive mega-fires on 90,000 acres near communities;
Reduced mega-fire on an additional 64,000 acres;
Improved 66,000 acres of wildlife habitat;
Restored 28 miles of fish habitat;
Enhanced clean water supplies by remediating 163 miles of eroding roads.

Perhaps even more encouraging is that all of this was achieved in a collaborative, bipartisan manner with just an initial $10 million of federal investment. Folks who were once at loggerheads over the management of our forests — industries, environmentalists, recreationists, sportsmen — have put those conflicts aside and worked collaboratively to achieve real, everyday benefits in their own communities with CFLRP.

In fact, CFLRP is seemingly one of the few programs Congress can agree on, with a bipartisan “Dear Colleague” letter now circulating in the Senate that supports increasing that seed money to $40 million in the 2012 budget, so even more communities can share in the jobs, forest, water, and wildlife successes of CFLRP. The sponsors of that letter are Senators Bingaman (D-NM), Crapo (R-ID), and Risch (R-ID).

Yet, by itself, CFLRP cannot solve the problems our American forests face: overgrown forests, a plague of pests, sprawl, climate change and the record mega-fires that result from this “perfect storm” of threats. But CFLRP is a step in the right direction that deserves more support, so that the lessons learned on these landscapes can spread further in our nation’s forests.

As a child, Theodore Roosevelt was notoriously sickly and myopic. In the belief he could heal his body through physical exertions, he prescribed himself a childhood spent outdoors and in the boxing ring. The prescription worked, and that sickly boy grew into a pugnacious collegiate boxing champion, a rugged cowboy, a leader of Rough Riders and ultimately, a farsighted president.

In doing so he made a lifetime out of answering the bell. Now it’s our turn.

Please ask your Congressional representatives now to help spread the success of CFLRP by sending them a message today. With 26 applicants to this program in 2011, you may be supporting a project in your own community!

Top 10 Weeks Act States by Acres:
Virginia 1,609,489
Arkansas 1,502,571
Michigan 1,491,673
Missouri 1,435,445
Wisconsin 1,187,062
Minnesota 1,146,664
North Carolina 1,091,377
West Virginia 1,023,768
Mississippi 878,218
Georgia 850,928

Top 10 Weeks Act National Forests by State:
Virginia George Washington and Jefferson National Forest 1,609,489
Missouri Mark Twain National Forest 1,435,445
Wisconsin Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest 1,187,062
North Carolina National Forests in North Carolina 1,091,057
West Virginia Monongahela National Forest 900,105
Mississippi National Forests In Mississippi 878,218
Georgia Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests 850,928
Minnesota Superior National Forest 830,130
Arkansas Ozark-St. Francis National Forest 823,770
Michigan Ottawa National Forest 741,080

1 thought on “Speaking up for America’s Forests”

  1. Obviously some people put a lot of effort into this fancy-looking report to pat themselves on the back for the supposed achievements of the CFLRP, but I’m calling BS on many of the achievement claims made by these CFLRP collaborators in this report.

    There is simply no way possible that all of the work listed in the report (pasted below) was achieved “with just an initial $10 million federal investment.”

    Created and maintained 1,550 jobs;
    Produced 107 million board feet of timber;
    Generated nearly $59 million of labor income;
    Removed fuel for destructive mega-fires on 90,000 acres near communities;
    Reduced mega-fire on an additional 64,000 acres;
    Improved 66,000 acres of wildlife habitat;
    Restored 28 miles of fish habitat;
    Enhanced clean water supplies by remediating 163 miles of eroding roads.

    Based on our organization’s experience with the SouthWest Crown of the Continent Collaborative in Montana, it was made quite abundantly clear by Forest Service officials that the $1 million this SWCC collaborative received was a very small shot in the arm, but most of the work in the SWCC landscape (on portions of the Lolo, Flathead and Lewis and Clark National Forests) was already in the works and in the Forest Service’s pipeline long before the CFLRP was even passed into law. In other words, many of these CFLRP collaboratives are dramatically over-inflating accomplishments directly attributed to the CFLRP and are taking credit for work that the Forest Service would have done anyway, regardless of if CFLRP passed or if $10 million was allocated to these 10 projects around the country.

    I’d also like to point out that the unscientific, fear-based term “mega-fire” is used in this report a total of 27 times, which is pretty incredible and unfortunate as it really has no scientific basis and just helps enforce fire hysteria.


Leave a Comment