WASHINGTON, APRIL 18, 2012 AT 3:30 PM EDT - In testimony today before the Senate Committee on Appropriations and Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said the proposed FY 2013 Forest Service budget reflects strategic investments to grow the economy, create jobs and fund programs that matter to Americans.
“Our nation can and should take steps to reduce the deficit and make the government leaner and more efficient in the 21st century,” Tidwell said. “As premier stewards of national forests and grasslands, the Forest Service will continue to fund cost-effective programs through the 2013 President’s Budget.”
The $4.86 billion budget request for the Forest Service, an increase of $15.5 million from last year, will be administered through programs and services that focus on restoration projects, community outreach and fire management.
“Engaging diverse communities continue to be a priority for the Forest Service,” Tidwell said. “We are committed to reconnecting communities to America’s Great Outdoors by expanding recreation benefits and harnessing the many economic opportunities our land management activities create that supports employment in forest-dependent communities.”
The budget request aligns with USDA Secretary Vilsack’s vision to meet the challenges of ecological restoration through collaborative approaches to address forest health issues including invasive species and watershed degradation.
Tidwell also reported that in FY 2011, the Forest Service restored or enhanced over 4.9 million acres of both public and private lands. In FY 2013, through Integrated Resource Restoration, the agency proposes to restore or sustain 2.6 million acres on National Forest System lands; provide 2.8 billion board feet of timber; decommission over 2,000 miles of road and restore or enhance 2,750 miles of stream habitat.
“With the current threats from insects and diseases, wildfire, urban development, and impacts of a changing climate, active restoration will continue to be a key component of our 2013 budget strategy,” Tidwell said. “Future restoration work will result in forest-related jobs and economic opportunities for rural communities.”
The Forest Service budget will also allow the development and sustainability of urban forest infrastructure within cities, as well as connecting urban residents -- especially youth -- to recreation experiences in national forests.
With more than 83 percent of all Americans living in metropolitan areas, the Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry program supports the active management of forests and trees in over 7,000 communities, reaching 194 million people in FY 2011.
The FY 2013 budget proposal also provides the opportunity to partner with communities and cooperating agencies to reduce the threat of wildland fires to people, property and watersheds.
“With the magnitude and urgency of forest restoration work, along with the demand for safe, accessible outdoor recreation opportunities, the Forest Service must strategically tackle fiscal challenges while continuing to provide services and goods to the American public,” Tidwell concluded.