Federal Forest Resource Coalition Weekly Report for April 1, 2022

By Bill Imbergamo, FFRC Executive Director.

Administration Proposes Anemic Increases in Timber Outputs, Acres Treated: The Biden Administration released their proposal for the Forest Service’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget, recommending flat funding for infrastructure and roads while proposing a minor cut in timber funding. Despite record levels of funding for hazardous fuels reduction work, the budget forecasts an increase in acres treated of 3.5 percent in FY 2023.

You can find the Forest Service budget justification at this link.

The budget proposes increasing overall National Forest System (NFS) funding by 12.1 percent over the enacted FY 2022 Omnibus Bill, it proposes a 3.5 percent reduction in the Forest Products (timber sale) line item, along with a flat budget for road maintenance. The timber sale program funding recommendation is nearly 20 percent down from the Administration’s request for FY 2021. The budget recommends a 12 percent reduction in Land Management Planning, the only other NFS line item recommended for a cut.

The following NFS programs received major increases in proposed budgets:

Land Use Authorization & Access: 123 percent increase

Recreation, Heritage, and Wilderness: 54 percent increase

Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration: 33 percent increase

Salaries & Expenses: 13 percent increase

For reasons that are not entirely clear, the budget proposal suggests moving the very large ($321 Million) Hazardous Fuels Reduction line item back out of the National Forest System Account and back into the Wildland Fire Account. For reference, this program was moved from the Wildland Fire account into the NFS account in 2017. Also unclear: the reason why the Administration would propose eliminating the $8 Million “Legacy Roads & Trails” program.

Timber Outputs: The budget request anticipates steady timber outputs for FY 2022 and FY 2023 of 3.4 Billion Board Feet (BBF). While this would represent an increase of over 556 Million Board Feet over the FY 2021, it is 200 MBF lower than the FY 2023 target Chief Moore discussed with the FFRC board of directors on March 15th.

The budget request blames the decline in timber outputs in FY 2021 on “the collapse of regional timber markets and limited staff capacity,” adding that the Covid-19 pandemic “limited the mobility of timber crews” and that many timber staff were on extended fire assignments. As if to re-emphasize the agency’s belief that markets are soft, it states, again that “market uncertainties and limited forest product manufacturing (due to the collapse in demand) affected the number of sales being awarded.”

Below is a chart of NFS volume sold in the last 6 years. Figures for FY 2022 and 2023 are projections.

For the record, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) lumber index has not closed below $500/MBF in over 522 days. “While we recognize that some timber markets are challenging, the idea of widespread ‘collapses’ in timber demand is simply not related to objective reality,” said FFRC Executive Director Bill Imbergamo. “Of course, sawmills and panel plants in Oregon, Montana, and South Dakota have closed, due to reduced timber availability from NFS lands, but this does not represent a market collapse.”

Hazardous Fuels Reduction: The agency claims to have reduced hazardous fuel loads on 3.67 million acres. 2.45 million acres of this “accomplishment” was from either prescribed fire or “beneficial wildfire”, which makes up 67 percent of the total. 1.85 million acres was in the Eastern, Southern, and Alaskan Regions, accounting for half the fuels reduction work. Fully one third of all fuels reduction work was prescribed burning in the deep South. The budget proposes “treating” 3.8 million acres in FY 2023, which would mean 2.5 million acres of prescribed fire and “beneficial” wildfire, assuming current ratios hold. Also, in spite of having record high hazardous fuels reduction funding, on top of billions in additional funding through the Infrastructure Bill and the FY 2022 Continuing Resolution, the agency is proposing to increase their fuels reduction work by a mere 3.5 percent.

Observations: This proposal is long on prescribed fire, short on management, and recommends insufficient funding for road maintenance. FFRC is going to have work with our allies and champions on Capitol Hill to reverse the negative directions found here.

It’s Finally Happening: FTPC Heads to California in May: The Federal Timber Purchasers Committee (FTPC) is finally making our triumphant return to California in May. We were originally scheduled to hit the Golden State in May of 2020, but world events intervened. The Regional Breakout Sessions will be conducted virtually over three days, from May 2nd – 4th with the in-person meeting in Sacramento May 17th through the 19th.

The in-person meeting kicks off on Tuesday, May 17th with a field trip to the Sierra Pacific Sawmill in Lincoln, CA. On Wednesday, May 18th, the Forest Service and the Industry will hold separate meetings followed by a reception from 5:30 to 7:30 PM. On Thursday, May 19th, we’ll hold the joint Industry-Agency meeting, wrapping up by 3:30 PM.

The meeting will be held at Hyatt Regency in Sacramento, CA (click here to make reservations). Online Registration ($100) is available through the FFRC website (click here). Please make sure you pay at the same time as when you register.

If you’ve never attended, please consider joining us for the FTPC meeting.

Reminder (Again) Forest Service Roundtables Continue Through May: The Forest Service and the National Forest Foundation are continuing to host a series of regional Roundtables on Implementation of the 10-Year Strategy to combat wildfires. Industry participation on these round tables is critical, so if you not registered yet, please do so!

Region: Date: Lead Contact:

Region 6: April 5 – 7 Darcy McDaniel, Mike Spisak

Region 1: April 20 – 22 Maureen Bookwalter

Region 4: May 3 – 5 Tyler Ashcroft

Region 8: May 17 – 19 Dave Martin, Emrys Treasure

Region 9: May 31 – June 2 Steve Miller

Region 10: June 7 – 9 Damien Zona

Upcoming Events:

The House Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands will hold an oversight hearing on implementation of the community resilience, forest restoration, and wildfire prevention elements of the Infrastructure Bill on Tuesday, April 5th at 10 AM.

The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on Renewable Energy policy as part of its preparation for the 2023 Farm Bill on Tuesday, April 5th at 10 AM.

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