The National Association of State Foresters, composed of the forestry agency directors in the 50 states, issued a COVID-19 stimulus platform — policy recommendations for inclusion in future federal economic stimulus legislation.
“Not only is the forestry sector foundational to rural economies, it is essential to the nation’s economic recovery,” said Greg Josten, NASF president and South Dakota state forester. “State forestry
agencies are critical links in the forestry sector supply chain and provide essential support to our nation’s emergency response capacity for wildfires and other disasters, like the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge members of Congress to take our association’s recommendations into consideration as they work to facilitate economic recovery.”
The association’s top stimulus priorities are categorized into three sections. The first section articulates how Congress can “meet immediate state forestry needs:”
• (1) To continue federal forestry program implementation under state budget shortfalls,
• (2) to retain current state forestry employees and hire new recruits,
• (3) to jump start rural economies through forestry work,
• (4) and to focus federal, state and private forestry program dollars where they will provide the most support to the forestry sector, NASF recommends that Congress provide an additional $500 million to state forestry agencies.
This additional funding, with added spending flexibility, will give state forestry agencies the resources they need to create new jobs, strengthen the forest products supply chain, and improve forest health, resilience, and productivity nationwide.
The second section of the association’s proposal urges Congress to “drive economic recovery nationwide” with a loan program for loggers and timber haulers, sustainable building tax credits to support forest product manufacturers, and investments in rural roads and bridges, among other recommendations.
“The private forests that state forestry agencies assist in managing are a tremendous economic engine for the U.S.,” said NASF executive director Jay Farrell. “Nationwide, these forests produce more than 90 percent of the nation’s wood and paper products, support 2.4 million jobs ($98.7 billion in payroll), contribute to $281 billion in timber sales, manufacturing, and shipments annually, and constitute 4.6 percent of the nation’s total manufacturing GDP.”
Privately-owned forests also filter over one-fourth of the nation’s drinking water and provide habitat to 60 percent of at-risk species, he added.
“Without robust timber and forest product markets,” said Farrell, “the forestry sector supply chain crumbles; and with it goes many of the economic, social, and environmental benefits of forests we simply can’t live without.”
The third and final section of the platform lists legislative options that can help America’s forest landowners recover from natural disasters, put Americans back to work restoring natural resources, and sustain rural schools and communities dependent on timber revenues.