14 Aug 2009, 11:15pm
Federal forest policy Politics and politicians
by admin

Vilsack Forest Speech, Seattle Aug 14, 2023

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack New Direction and Vision for America’s Forests

USDA Newsroom: News Release No. 0383.09, August 14, 2023

Seattle, Washington, August 14, 2023 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today outlined his vision for the future of our nation’s forests. In his first major speech regarding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, Vilsack set forth a new direction for conservation, management, and restoration of these natural treasures.

“Our nation’s forestlands, both public and private, are environmental and economic assets that are in critical need of restoration and conservation,” said Vilsack. “By using a collaborative management approach with a heavy focus on restoring these natural resources, we can make our forests more resilient to climate change, protect water resources, and improve forest health while creating jobs and opportunities.”

Climate change, catastrophic fires, disease and pests have all led to declining forest health in recent decades. The resulting impact on watersheds, the climate, local economies, wildlife, and recreation, has led the USDA to offer a new vision for our nation’s forests. By taking forest management in a new direction, the Department will emphasize the role our national forestlands play in contributing to the health and prosperity of the country and reverse the trend of declining forest health.

“Declining forest health and the effects of our changing climate have resulted in an increasing number of catastrophic wildfires and insect outbreaks,” said Vilsack. “It is time for a change in the way we view and manage America’s forestlands with an eye towards the future. This will require a new approach that engages the American people and stakeholders in conserving and restoring both our National Forests and our privately-owned forests. It is essential that we reconnect Americans across the nation with the natural resources and landscapes that sustain us.”

In addition, the new approach to managing our forests aims to secure the nation’s water supply. Watersheds with a large proportion of forest cover are more likely to be associated with good water quality, with forests protecting soil, moderating streamflow, supporting healthy aquatic systems, and sustaining good water quality.

President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is one component of this new direction that USDA has already begun to implement. Through the Recovery Act, the Obama Administration is funding 512 projects that will create jobs restoring our nation’s private, state and national forests through hazardous fuel reduction, forest health protection, rehabilitation, and hazard mitigation activities. Nearly 170 of these projects will help maintain our forests to reduce the potential for fires. Meanwhile, thirty of these projects, funded at $57 million, will promote the development of biofuels from woody biomass to help private sector businesses establish renewable energy infrastructure, create green jobs and build a new, green economy for the 21st century.

The U.S. Forest Service manages national forests and grasslands encompassing 193 million acres of land, which is an area equivalent to the size of Texas. With over 80% of the forest area in the United States outside of the National Forest System, the new vision seeks to increase public-private cooperation regarding the conservation and restoration practices to non-federal forests — state, tribal and private forest lands. The Administration’s plan calls for the U.S. Forest Service to play a leading role in the development of new markets to sustain the economic viability of forest stewardship and provide landowners with economic incentives to maintain and restore forests.

National forestlands produce economic benefits from a diverse range of sources, including recreation and more than 200 hydroelectric plants operated in national forest watersheds. With more than 192 million visitors to National Forests in 2008, local communities throughout the country benefit economically from those who recreate on and near forestlands and high-quality water bodies protected by forested watersheds.

A healthy and prosperous America relies on the health of our nation’s forests:

Nearly 87% of all of the country’s fresh water supply originates from forests and agricultural lands and more than 200 million people rely on their drinking water from public and private forests and grasslands;

53% of the Nation’s total water supply originates from public and private forest lands;

More than 900 cities rely on national forest watersheds;

3,400 public water systems serving 66 million people in 33 states are supplied by watersheds with Forest Service land;

Public and private forests in the 20 Northeastern and Midwestern States help to protect more the 1,600 drinking water supplies supplying more than 4 trillion gallons per day to households of more than 52 million Americans;

80% of the forest area in the United States is outside of the National Forest System;

The estimated annual value of water from national forests for in-stream uses is at least $3.7 billion.

See excerpts of Secretary Vilsack’s speech online [here]

15 Aug 2009, 12:57pm
by Forrest Grump

A lot of talk about water, which is dealt with through SMZ and modern machinery (not Infish, thanks, which is in the Tester wilderness bill).
And I find it sorta serendipitous that there was one visitor per each acre last year. Hmmmm.

15 Aug 2009, 6:50pm
by Ned


I can’t help but be amazed at the uninformed. No mention of how the “health of our nation’s forests” can be restored. Does the Secretary know that the industry that once provided the means to manage our national forests has been destroyed? Does the Secretary understand that roads are necessary for national forest management? Does the Secretary even understand that forests provide more than clean water, recreation and wildlife? Does the Secretary know that the forest health problem is a result of environmental regulations and the failure to implement forest plans? Does the Secretary understand that the expertise to manage the national forests no longer exists in the Forest Service? There is nothing in his speech that gives me any confidence that healthy forests will be restored.

15 Aug 2009, 7:27pm
by Larry H.

The spin I am seeing so far is that “restoration” will mostly apply to private timberlands and I’m gleaning from his speech that the government is willing to pay those landowners to do it, in one way or another. This action is to stem the tide of landowners selling off their forests for commercial development. I wonder what the eco’s will think of these landowners taking advantage of subsidies and other programs that will reward them by selling water. Many eco’s will be outraged at the thought of selling water for profit. They will continue to be against any form of harvesting at all, especially including any form of biomass, which Vilsack hopes to jumpstart.

Regarding National Forests, Vilsack has been purposely vague on specific ideas on how to “restore” them. Until “restoration” is officially defined, there will be ample confusion and conjecture over what it will take and how to go about doing it. The tiny handful of projects mentioned in the speech are but a few molecules in the huge bucket. Extremists have already branded Vilsack to be an enemy, concluding that “active management” means accelerated and damaging logging for greedy profit by the timber companies without any controls. Extremists still prefer a hands-off approach, other than totally inadequate prescribed fire.

“Restoration” will probably end up actually being “preservation” of National Forest lands in any plan put forth by the Obama Administration. They will also run into legal roadblocks just as contentious as Bush’s 8 years in office endured. My prediction is that the government will agree to anything in order to create the appearance of “restoration”, resulting in a vastly insignificant effect on our disasterous mortality levels.

16 Aug 2009, 9:11am
by Mozer

The secretary understands the situation our forests are in. Protecting water is key to protecting the web of life. Protecting the web of life is key to mitigating the out of control impacts of our society.
Unfortunately, this society is singularly obsessed with economics. How effective will restoration be when chained to our God Money?
Still, the fact that the secretary is discussing real issues is far more than we’ve had for 8 years, and it provides room to move forward in a number of areas-like drop kicking off road vehicles out of our National Forests.

16 Aug 2009, 1:38pm
by Bob Z.


Like it or not, all government work is tied to money — usually tax money taken from irritated citizens.

I will continue to contend that a major commitment to restoring our nation’s forests, parks, and grasslands can properly (and rapidly) treat millions of acres, produce tens of thousands of well-paying, permanent rural jobs, create a significant amount of dependable energy, greatly reduce the threat of wildfire to homeowners and wildlife, and beautify our landscapes. At no cost to taxpayers.

The commitment would have to be real, and for an extended period of time for skilled workers and producers. Money-losing landscapes would have to be balanced with profit-making landscapes. The public would need to be educated regarding tolerance for prescribed fire miscues and smoke. Existing bad science resulting in current bad policies would need to be identified and eradicated.

It would be difficult — politically — to get such a commitment in place. But it would be fun, would rejuvenate out rural landscapes and economies, and would produce an environment for visitors, residents, and wildlife without parallel in the world.

The really big problems are ignorance and apathy.

16 Aug 2009, 2:16pm
by Forrest Grump

You missed.
All of those things you want? They cost. Go ahead, VOLUNTEER to steward a patch of ground to your idea. Get others like yourself who aren’t obsessed with economics to VOLUNTEER to help.
I challenge you as thus: Go find someone who owns a tree. Ask them if you can cut it down for free. Pick a crummy tree, maybe one with crown locking into a nicer tree. If they say yes, then first whack it down without killing yourself or wrecking the nice tree. Now, here comes the good part…it’s up to you to make something useful out of that tree you just whacked, besides firewood.
Hard work, ain’t it? Well, that’s the kind of hard work that’s gonna have to happen over entire landscapes, and soon, in order to protect your precious web of life.

16 Aug 2009, 2:57pm
by Mike

Mozer and his/her pals that like to drop kick their fellow human beings are sadly deranged and disreputable because of it.

We are all in this together. That includes folks like Mozer who live in wood houses, drink water, and otherwise depend on forest commodities for their very lives. The “web of life” includes humanity.

It is our task to care for this planet. We should not, in fact cannot, “mitigate” away the “impacts” of society. Humanity and landscapes have been, are, and forever will be completely intertwined. Our job is to be good stewards, not to rave nonsense and drop kick each other.

16 Aug 2009, 3:06pm
by Bonky

You know, the whole world has gone insane and we are too stupid to realize it. This fact manifests itself in almost every interaction, synchronous or asynchronous, with people or organizations.

Why do job listings contain phrases like, “must be able to reach consensus” with groups with competing agendas, distrust of outside consultants, and those they have never worked with? These organizations are incapable of controlling everyone in their own group, and are continually looking for some superman to come in do it or fail spectacularly so at least they can say they waved at the problem but it didn’t work out.

WTF is wrong with everything? About 25 years ago, I started recognizing this but misinterpreted it and even recall saying to various people, “sometime during the last few years, people seem to have lost their sense of humor.” In fact, it went much deeper than that and I gradually realized their most people’s minds had turned to mush.

I realized a while ago that it was the cognitive dissonance during the early 70’s pseudo-people’s park riots, when idiots would chant “trash Tower Records” that I understood at least subconsciously that these people were a bunch of fools.

A little sanity might go a long ways these days. We sure need some. Save a forest, save yourself. That ought to be the new motto.

17 Aug 2009, 10:04am
by Mike

For what it’s worth:

Vilsack’s forest agenda welcomed by conservationists, loggers

The Agriculture secretary outlines restoration and environmental goals in his first major policy address on U.S. forestland.

By Kim Murphy, LA Times, August 15, 2023 [here]

Restoration and conservation are the goals that will guide management of the U.S. forest system under the Obama administration, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Friday.

In his first major policy address on the nation’s forests at Seattle’s Seward Park, Vilsack said: “It is time for a change in the way we view and manage America’s forestlands with an eye toward the future. This will require a new approach that engages the American people and stakeholders in conserving and restoring both our national forests and our privately owned forests. It is essential that we reconnect Americans across the nation with the natural resources and landscapes that sustain us.”

His address was short on specifics, but elicited a generally positive reaction from conservationists and the timber industry — groups that often find very little to agree on. …

Ouch. The Media defines all forest issues as confrontations between “conservationists” and “loggers”. That is so wrong. That world view is defective in every respect. I don’t know how to counter it, though. Fatheadedness is epidemic in this crumbling nation.

Do yourself and your country a favor. Cancel your subscription to the Big Brother Media. Put the propaganda meisters out of business. Eschew poppycock journalism. Cleanse your consciousness of Orwellian glosses perpetrated by unthinking political puppets.

If the LA Times goes belly up and all their journalists have to find real, productive work, this country would be vastly better off. Shake off the cobwebs of establishment lies. Seek the truth elsewhere, because you will NOT find it in the newspaper.

17 Aug 2009, 8:37pm
by Larry H.

Vilsack is baiting and switching. He KNOWS damn well that he cannot promise anything at all to the loggers or the mills. He also knows that the loggers will accept any tidbits that the Forest Service will offer. Finally, I wonder if Vilsack even knows that “consensus” isn’t necessary, as Congress has already passed the Omnibus Amendment (without reading it, of course!)



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