The US Forest Service office of International Programs draws on the expertise of the entire agency– National Forest Systems, Research and Development and State and Private Forestry – promoting sustainable forest management overseas and bringing important technologies and innovations back to the US.
Effective forest management at the global level is necessary to protect American trade interests—such as the ability of US timber producers to compete on a level playing field—and the sustainability of critical domestic and foreign natural resources. Forest management policy discussions routinely tackle complex issues such as: trade, US competitiveness, economic growth, national security, and sustainable forest management.
The US Forest Service, through its International Programs, acts as an advocate for US interests abroad and engages with countless governmental and non-governmental partners to share best practices. As the US continues to be one of the world’s largest traders in forest products and a leader in sustainable forest management, active engagement abroad will continue to be smart policy to safeguard US national interests.
In International Programs, We Work To:
Level the playing field in international trade for US timber producers — improving the sustainability and legality of timber management overseas means less underpriced timber on the world market.
As one of the world’s largest international traders in forest products, the US depends on the long-term viability of forests everywhere. When the prices in other producer countries do not include the full cost of regeneration and environmental protection, they are artificially low. This underpriced timber sold on the world market adversely affects the US timber industry, which practices sustainable forest management. These and other major natural resource management issues are shaped in large part by forest practices and policies.
International Programs works with other governments, industry and environmental organizations and universities on sustainable management of forests overseas through addressing the related policy, technical, and socioeconomic issues.
A good example of this is our current cooperation with Peru which is funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to address illegal logging & timber tracking in that country. Specifically, the US Forest Service International Programs has been working in Peru to strengthen institutions, promote transparency, participation, and to track and verify the legal origins of timber. Through the Peru Forest Sector Initiative, the US Forest Service assists the Government of Peru in complying with the obligations of the US-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement. This initiative has important implications for trade: illegally-traded wood is priced artificially low because the full costs of sustainable production—including tracking—are not reflected. This situation suppresses the estimated value of US wood exports. The US wood products industry is supportive of efforts like these around the world as they can bolster prices and environmental sustainability.
Further, by working overseas we make a significant contribution to the US government objective of improving forest conservation and sustainable management worldwide. How do we do this? International Programs catalyzes projects involving Forest Service technical experts and counterparts from overseas as well as from US industry. These partnerships yield positive results for all involved.
Advance US forestry interests at international policy deliberations, to be a leader in global forestry issues.
Forest policy impacts all facets of natural resource sustainability domestically and overseas. The US needs to be at the table when international forest policy is being developed. The Forest Service – through our International Programs Policy Team – plays a critical role as a technical advocate for US interests in international policy negotiations led by the Department of State and the US Trade Representative’s Office. These agencies rely on the knowledge and expertise within the Forest Service to provide sound technical advice to advance US interests.
International Programs has supported a recent change to US law that stands to significantly benefit the American forest products industry. The Lacey Act was recently amended to include plant species, providing a tremendous opportunity to impede the flow of illegal logs and wood products into the United States. The Forest Service is the only agency with experience in wood identification which aids in enforcement of the newly modified Lacey Act. This work aims to reduce the destructive impacts of illegal logging globally and helps American forest product companies to compete on a level playing field.
We work closely with our partners, including governments, NGOs and the private sector in more than 85 countries. Cooperation specifically focuses on illegal logging including US Forest Service programs in Liberia, Central Africa, Madagascar, Russia, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, and Bolivia. For example, in Indonesia the US Forest Service works to help improve timber-tracking systems, enhance regulatory and investigative practices, and offer alternative sustainable timber harvesting practices.
Protect the US from invasive species that damage or have great potential to damage our forests.
Invasive forest pests inflict millions of dollars of damage to the US economy every year –and researchers currently estimate there are at least 20 destructive forest pests likely to enter the US in the coming decade. Conversely, the threat of invasive species is often manipulated by countries and cited as phytosanitary barriers to US exports.
What can we do? Forest Service scientists have been working on identifying and using biocontrol agents for invasive forest pests as they are a far more effective and less costly method of suppressing existing pests. International Programs facilitates projects involving agency scientists and land managers with counterparts in those countries where the invasive species originate. Without international collaboration we cannot effectively control pests already in the US or prevent further introductions. Current international cooperation with countries, including China and Russia, addresses: Sudden Oak Death, Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, Mile-a-Minute Weed, Beech Bark Scale, European and Asian gypsy moths, and Emerald Ash Borer.
Agency experts have worked with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to develop a user-friendly guide to the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures to prevent pest introduction and their spread through trade. This work aims to help the regulatory community in identifying practical and effective ways to protect natural resources, while promoting international forest products trade. For more information, please visit www.fao.org//forestry/foresthealthguide/en.
Address the role of natural resource management in national security.
Resource scarcity and unregulated extraction of natural resource--whether it be water, food, timber , or minerals--has tremendous potential to stimulate unrest and corruption, both of which undermine democracy, rule of law and stability. The US Forest Service, largely through partnerships with USAID and the US Department of State, helps to improve resource management in more than 85 countries around the world. This assistance is an important arm of foreign assistance because it is appreciated and much needed in many parts of the world. A good example of this is our work in Liberia which consisted of a multi-year program to reform forest policy reform, enhance forest biodiversity and promote community based forest management.
Recover US migratory species in decline.
The Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service invest heavily in protecting habitat for listed migratory birds. Many of these species spend the winter in Latin America and the Caribbean. If habitats in these areas are not protected, the tremendous US domestic investment in conservation is wasted. We work extensively in the winter ranges of many critical species to develop capacity to better manage the winter homes for these birds—a small investment with a huge impact.
Similarly, all wild Pacific Salmon migrate from the rivers of the West Coast of North America and Eastern Russia to the Pacific Ocean. The Forest Service is working with Russian counterparts to improve watershed management on the rivers in Eastern Russia to preserve these wild stocks of this important species for future generations.
Adapt to a changing climate by using innovative forest management practices.
There are tremendous opportunities to mitigate climate change, reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate through the use of innovative forest management practices – both domestically and internationally. Slowing deforestation rates, curbing land degradation, increasing carbon storage, and using forests as an alternative and sustainable energy source all serve to mitigate and or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
With more than 100 years of experience managing national forests and grasslands, and working with partners on state and private lands, the Forest Service has valuable experience to contribute. For example, longstanding collaboration with the Government of Mexico to provide forest management training has inspired some innovative incentives that serve multiple purposes: including halting deforestation, and improving watershed health, and fostering local livelihoods. In turn, we have learned from Mexico’s experience with valuing ecosystem services.
Bring important research, knowledge and technology gained overseas back to the US to improve forest management at home.
The US stands to gain from forestry research conducted abroad. By working cooperatively with experts overseas, we bring important technologies and research findings back to the US. Good examples include:
- Danish technologies utilize large amounts of small diameter wood from their forests for heating of commercial and private buildings and other uses. International Programs is facilitating exchanges between Forest Service scientists, US industry representatives and Danish counterparts to assess whether these technologies can be used in the US. They would utilize small diameter wood from our forests, reduce fuel loads, and lower the risk of catastrophic fires.
- Forest certification, which had its origins overseas, is increasingly used as a management tool on US state and private lands. Costa Rica, Mexico and others are pioneering the development of markets for ecosystem services to provide additional financial incentives for retaining and managing forests. As the market for certified timber and forest products increases, International Programs continues to engage partners through the International Tropical Timber Organization and countries including Germany, Indonesia and Brazil about certification and its components, including wood identification.
Improve our domestic disaster management by exposure to innovative methods and technologies during international assignments.
The Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, a division of the US Agency for International Development, provides full funding for the Forest Service to participate in international disaster response efforts. During these assignments, our disaster management specialists apply their skills in unique settings — often with fewer or different resources. US Forest Service specialists must innovate to get the job done during these international assignments. When returning to the US, they often find these innovative technologies, methods, approaches, and lessons learned have application here as well.
Leverage our investments in workforce diversity awareness.
Overseas assignments often provide an invaluable experience in diversity. For many US Forest Service personnel, it is their first time working in an environment, where English is not spoken, cultural traditions and norms are different, and forest types are exotic. This adds real-world value to the investment that the Agency makes in diversity and civil rights training.
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