An indicator for Criterion 7: Legal, Institutional, and Economic Framework for Forest Conservation and Sustainable Management
What is the indicator and why is it important?
Capital resources of physical infrastructure (e.g., roads, utilities, and processing facilities) are essential to the management of forests and ultimately to economic development and quality of life in rural forested areas. Investments in public infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, sewer and sanitation systems, schools, parks, and other physical facilities, are important government initiatives that complement the capital investments of private firms. Together, these investments constitute the capital basis for protecting forests and related resources and for producing the goods and services that sustain economies of forested areas. Some people have suggested that forest ecosystems per se can be considered a form of green infrastructure.
What does the indicator show?
The development and maintenance of adequate physical infrastructure to facilitate the supply of forest products and services to support forest management is the responsibility of governments who own public lands, teach, or perform research, and of private sector firms and forest owners who manage forests or forest products manufacturing facilities. Provisions to meet this responsibility are generally prescriptive for government forest management, education, and research activities, and largely performance or outcome based for private sector forest managers.
Some informational and educational mechanisms are required by law and could include technical assistance and research to provide adequate facilities and forest infrastructure such as roads, firebreaks, fire-fighting gear, and forest harvesting equipment. Often such infrastructure is required in terms of the process for developing adequate capacity for forestry activities.
Private sector firms develop physical infrastructure and provide institutional capacity through private market, free enterprise efforts. They develop internal firm or trade association rules, processes, or outcome guidelines as necessary, with either voluntary compliance or self-regulation, including through forest certification. Their ultimate success in developing efficient infrastructure is measured by market performance and profits, in the long run.
Direct government subsidies have seldom been employed in developing private forestry infrastructure, but many parts of the Federal tax code related to accelerated depreciation, tax deductions, and tax credits promote investments and manufacturing plants and facilities and in-woods equipment.
What has changed since 2003?
Due to more frequent large forest fires, the budget for national forests has been increasingly dedicated to firefighting. This shift in the allocation of resources has enhanced firefighting capacity, but deleteriously affected funding for other maintenance and ongoing operations in the agency. The Federal economic stimulus package in 2009 included substantial funds for forestry infrastructure, with an allocation of $1.1 billion to be spent on national forests, forest health projects, and related State and private projects. There was a modest decline in tree planting in the United States in the mid-2000s, but appears that total tree planting has increased slightly in the past 2 years. Most other changes in forestry infrastructure at the State or private level have not been notable.