The Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, highlighted some of the agency’s accomplishments during 2017 to improve the productivity, uses, and sustainability of national forests and grasslands.
“Our accomplishments this year demonstrate the Forest Service’s strong commitment to improving the economic health of rural communities; ensuring lands and watersheds are sustainable, healthy and productive; and mitigating wildfire risk,” said Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke. “As the Forest Service moves into 2018, our priorities will continue to tie directly to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s strategic vision for the Department.”
Here are a few highlights of Forest Service accomplishments during 2017, derived from and inspired by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s strategic goals:
Improved the Conditions of America’s Forests
- Employed the full suite of treatments and tools to improve conditions on more than 2.7 million acres of forestland. This work helped reduce fire severity and increase resilience;
- Harvested more than 2.9 billion board feet of wood, leading to improved forest conditions and contributing wood products to local economies;
- Used Farm Bill authorities to work on 60 projects addressing insect and disease infestations and partner with 35 states on restoration projects.
Worked toward a Fix to Fire Funding
- USDA informed members of a national coalition on the impacts of the high costs of suppressing wildfire totaling $2.4 billion in Fiscal Year 2017 alone.
- Built bipartisan support with key Congressional leaders to develop innovative options that fix the two-pronged problem of fire transfer and growing suppression costs;
Implemented the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Strategy
- Treated more than 1.3 million high priority acres nationwide to reduce fire risk and improve forest conditions. Agency personnel focused on areas with communities, areas of high fire potential, and areas where risk could most effectively be alleviated;
- Increased wildfire mitigation efforts in high-risk communities through partnerships with organizations such as the Fire-Adapted Communities Coalition and The Nature Conservancy;
- Improved 1.33 million acres of wildlife habitat, and treated over 73,600 acres for noxious weeds and invasive plants;
Responded to Record Wildfires and Hurricanes
- Confronted wildland fires that started in the Southeast and continued through the year in the Southwest, Pacific Northwest, Intermountain West and Pacific Northwest. At peak season, more than 28,000 personnel were dispatched to fires, along with aircraft and other emergency response resources;
- Responded during three hurricane events; Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Dispatched highly skilled crews, incident management teams, and Law Enforcement Officers to Puerto Rico to rapidly clear roads, remove debris and protect public safety in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.