Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the release of the Forestry Resource Coordinating Committee (FRCC) 2014 report. The committee's responsibilities include providing advice to Secretary Vilsack on national priorities for private forest conservation. Protecting working forestlands is important piece to the effort to achieve landscape scale outcomes.
The FRCC is composed of 20 members, representing a broad range of interest groups and provides guidance for USDA programs. Interest groups include the forest industry, tribal governments, state and federal agencies, academic institutions, private landowners and non-governmental organizations. The report is available on the FRCC website (http://www.fs.fed.us/spf/coop/frcc/) and contains nine recommendations:
- Formally align USDA programs with state priorities to maximize conservation values and ensure programs target localized needs.
- Maintain federal and state technical assistance and conservation programs that engage all woodland owners and especially those not yet active in forest management and conservation.
- Establish and provide funding for additional programs that assist in the local delivery of tools, approaches, and other services for engaging woodland owners and tracking progress and impacts over time.
- Provide access by USDA and the Department of Interior to federal disaster and emergency funding for wildfire response and suppression costs.
- Prioritize USDA investments in private forest landowner programs that promote forest health and resiliency.
- Provide full support for core forest inventory programs at USDA used to identify potential threats including insect and disease outbreaks, invasive plants, or fire.
- Continue to invest in landscape-scale conservation and management programs to foster collaboration, cooperation and resiliency across landscapes.
- Increase coordination and collaboration among regulatory and land management agencies at all levels and internally to leverage existing programs and resources, as well as state and regional plans to support landscape scale conservation and management.
- Maintain and enhance programs that develop and expand market research and infrastructure opportunities for private forest landowners.
The committee is chaired by Jim Hubbard, Forest Service Deputy Chief of State and Private Forestry.
The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.