“Forest Service surpasses goals and breaks records in 2019”

A press release from the USFS today…. Plenty to discuss. These are the high points. What were the lows?


USDA Forest Service surpasses goals and breaks records in 2019

Agency treated millions of acres, expanded partnerships, access and supported rural economies


WASHINGTON, December 19, 2019 – The USDA Forest Service announced today that 2019 was a historic year for America’s national forests and grasslands.

“In 2019, through Shared Stewardship agreements we forged new partnerships and built on existing ones to better collaborate and share decision space with states, partners and tribes,” said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “We also opened hundreds of thousands of acres of national forests to visitor access and sold more timber in this year than we have in any of the past 21 years, providing a sustainable flow of forest products and supporting rural economies.”

Creating healthy, productive forests and supporting rural economies

The Forest Service surpassed expectations and sold nearly 3.3 billion board feet of timber in 2019—75 million board feet more than the 20-year high set in 2018. The agency also improved forest conditions and reduced wildfire risk on over 4 million acres through timber harvest, removing hazardous fuels like dead and downed trees, and combating disease, insect and invasive species infestations.

Timber harvest volume from projects under the Good Neighbor Authority, more than tripled in 2019 from 22 to 89 million board feet. This authority allows the Forest Service to enter into agreements with state forestry agencies to perform restoration work to improve health and productivity on national forests and grasslands. To date, projects under this authority have taken place in 38 states.

Sharing stewardship responsibilities and being better neighbors

So far, 12 states and the Western Governors Association have signed on to work alongside the Forest Service to set landscape-scale goals, as well as share resources and expertise. These Shared Stewardship agreements allow the Forest Service to better work with partners to address challenges such as wildfire, insect and disease infestations and improve forest and watershed conditions while adapting to user needs. Participating states include Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.

The Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership, a combined effort of the Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, treated 100,000 acres in 2019 to improve forest health where public and private lands meet and to protect nearby communities from wildfire.

The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, the National Forest Foundation and the Forest Service partnered to set up a $4 million grant program to improve watersheds and reduce wildfire risk.

The Forest Service launched a community-based prototype wildfire risk mapping tool in Washington State. This tool is the first of its kind and allows local, state and federal agencies to fight fire where it matters most and to build fire-adapted communities more strategically and collaboratively. A nationwide map based on the prototype will be available in 2020.

Increasing access and improving recreation experiences

More than 5.2 million hours of work were logged in 2019 as part of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, a private-public partnership that engages more than 25,000 returning veterans and young Americans each year to strengthen America’s infrastructure and boost local economies. Participants helped to plant trees, reduce wildfire risk and improve forest conditions through vegetation management and hazardous fuels reduction projects, valued at $128 million.

Nearly 560,000 acres of national forests and grasslands were opened for access in partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation as part of their “Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt” initiative.

Access and recreation opportunities were improved through the National Forest and Grasslands Explorer and Digital pass applications. The Explorer app lets visitors know where to find points of interest on national forests and grasslands and how best to explore them. The Digital Pass app was developed in cooperation with Recreation.gov to make purchasing day passes easier by selling them online.

“2019 was a banner year for us,” added Chief Christiansen. “Next year, we will continue to build on these successes to improve conditions on America’s national forests and grasslands to ensure they are healthier, more resilient and more productive.”

“We will keep building on the partnerships that make these successes possible and commit to increasing access to better connect people to their natural resources, so these national treasures endure for generations to come.”

For more information about the Forest Service visit www.fs.fed.us.

9 thoughts on ““Forest Service surpasses goals and breaks records in 2019””

  1. Hi Steve.
    How would one check these glowing figures? I would dispute “access to hundreds of thousands of acres.” What is the Chief talking about? In my experience, miles of forest trails are being lost to deadfall, creek damage from fires (the Gila Wilderness for example has about 100 miles of trail impassable on westside from results of Whitewater Baldy Complex Fire of 2012& I could cite dozens more of trail miles closed/damaged at least on southwestern forests) and invasives (in East many trails blocked by deadfall from wooly adelgid). Glad Forest Service has some good partners but seems less and funding for trails and infrastructure. So what kind of access are we talking about?

    • Good points, Cindy. I do think the Digital Pass app is a good thing. Of course, it works only if you have cell service, which many sites don’t. I was able to buy a Christmas-tree cutting permit online — nice.

      • Hi Steve. Haven’t used it (because spouse Dave has lifetime senior Access Pass…which I should get around to buying some day…!) but does sound more convenient than trying to leave $5 in envelope at trailhead or other earlier methods. However, not sure it opens up access, just provides more convenient way to pay a fee for access. Perhaps semantics!

    • Cindy, I would be that those are acres that access was developed via land swaps or other means. The way it was stated triggered “Lands” in my brain. I think you could call or email the WO Press Office with questions. There’s probably a document somewhere from which that was excerpted. Some people consider TSW a legitimate news source and respond accordingly.

      • Thanks Sharon. Yeah that would make sense–acres made accessible through land swaps. I just hate sloppy use of figures in this era of “personal private truth.” So many sweeping statements made and David would ask, where is the data?

        Good point to contact WO-OC and ask basis of the figures.

        Otherwise I am just as lazy as they were!

  2. How can a science-based agency claim with a straight face that clearcutting (or excessive “thinning” for that matter) benefits forest health? Industry talking points don’t hold water in the 21st century, in light of current ecological understandings. This is archaic double-speak, attempting to cast enough doubt to neuter meaningful reform and prolong the frenzy.

    Removing essential biomass from forests in no way “creates healthy, productive forests!” Just the opposite. This diminishes the land’s ability to:
    -generate and maintain soil, the source of short and long-term forest health
    -support mycorrhizal networks and saprophytic fungi
    -store and ration moisture in dry times
    -maintain stream flow and springs
    -absorb floodwater and curtail erosion
    -maintain diverse and resilient genes pools
    -provide flora and fauna habitat, microclimates and refugia
    -sequester carbon in multiple ways
    -etc etc etc

    The pretense of protecting against wildfires is often deeply misleading as well, as the high winds that define severe wildfires send embers flying well beyond the relatively small areas of fuel reduction. Thinning forests increases the penetration of winds and the loss of moisture, counteracting any purported risk reduction.

    The Forest Service attempts to obfuscate the scale of its herbicide use, but University of Montana research found in a single year “1.2 million acres of U.S. federal and tribal wildlands –an area the size of 930,630 football fields – was sprayed with 200 tons of herbicides.” Glyphosate is a desiccant, impeding the ability of trees to absorb moisture. It is also targeting broadleaf trees, such as aspen and birch that are naturally fire retardant “asbestos forests” in favor of commercial conifer species. Canada and the US drench their public lands with a carcinogenic endocrine disruptor that promoted sterility in mammals, wipe out understory diversity and the insects and animals that rely on it. Sounds like some sociopathic addict behavior to me!

    Suppressing tree species diversity attempts to bypass the very concept of forest succession, turning our public lands into monocultural landscapes of capitalist production and undermining the hundreds-of-millions-of-years-old intelligence of forests. It is the “insult” to the incomprehensible injury of logging 96-98% of ancient forests. Wood is not the only option to build a house, people! Let the forest recover, self-select, and teach us a bit about cooperative survival before we rush to butcher them.

    • Having a “natural forest” through “natural succession” is a fantasy in this real world of overstocked burning forests ignited by humans. There are proven site-specific active management techniques which work much better than simply ‘doing nothing’. I’ll bet you don’t know that the Forest Service hasn’t used clearcuts or harvested old growth, since 1992, in the Sierra Nevada National Forests. There are no lawsuits against those thinning projects. Herbicide use is minuscule in those Forests. Tree diversity isn’t decreasing. Old growth is quite plentiful.

      Sadly, beetle mortality is devastating, especially in the ‘protected’ Giant Sequoia National Monument. We will get a chance to see (again) what happens to unmanaged, man-influenced forests (AKA burned to a crisp).

    • March, you’ve made a great many assertions but I’ll focus on one. Many of our western forests are not old growth, in fact, they are growing back after being burned or being logged in the past. (of course, many eastern national forests as well).

      And I am a tree scientist… so to me there is no “hundreds of millions of years old intelligence of forests” in fact, different species were around different places than today due to glaciation. Forest tree species have been adapting through time and will continue to do so. Of course, you may think that there is an idea of “forest” that does not involve tree species, but I think that’s more of a mystic than a scientific idea.

      You might be interested in these two articles in American Forests

  3. I spent a lot my time toward the end of my career pushing for what I called multi-jurisdictional conservation planning, but you might call it “shared stewardship” of ecosystems, or at least at-risk wildlife species, especially habitat connectivity. For some reason the Forest Service was totally opposed to that idea. Maybe because there are no targets for acres left alone?


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