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Forestry Program Emphasis

The Presidents “Healthy Forest Initiative” has put National emphasis on Forest and Woodland Management.  Congress and the DOI have also stepped up the Forestry and Woodland Program through additional funding earmarked from the Fire and Fire Preparedness Program.  The BLM has organized the Forestry Program into it’s own Group at the WO level.  There is an increased emphasis to coordinate and cooperate between the Fire and the Forestry Program.  The USO has included both of these Programs under one direction in the Division of Natural Resources.  National emphasis has shifted away form totally “Saw Timber” to include all Woodland Products.

Within the past several years, the Utah BLM Workload Measures have been low in the Core Forestry Program Elements of BT (Inventory), EG (Permits/Contracts), HD (Management Treatments), JE (Restoration Treatments) and MB (Treatments Evaluated).  To this end, the WO has cut the Utah 1030 Base Funding by $50,000 in Fy-02 and proposed an additional $105,000 cut in FY-03.  We have convinced the WO to allow us to show improvements and “build” a viable Program.  The Forestry Audit showed States with personnel trained in Forestry and dedicated to that Program produced the best result (and most “Units”).  To this end, the FY-03 Base funding for Utah included $70,000 earmarked for a State Forestry Lead Position.  This funding will be used to fill a State Forestry Lead position in FY 2003.  Because of the lateness in FY2003, the entire $70,000 will not be needed to fund the position.  We plan to allocate the balance to field offices to accomplish forestry work.

Bureauwide there is $500,000 for Forestry Positions in FY-03 within the 2824 Program.  Utah will receive $75,000 of this funding to hire an additional (second) Forestry Position to work close with the Fire Program on biomass utilization and fuels reduction in connection with the Wild-land Urban Interface Program (WUI).  This funding also can be carried forward if needed into FY-04.  If this funding is not available within 2824 or other subactivities during FY-04 and out years, the WO has committed to including this funding in Utah’s 1030 Base Funding.  The WO is anticipating an increase of at least $1 million in PD forestry in FY2004.  The prospects of receiving the funding are very good since forestry has been elevated in priority in the Bureau and the Department, and is an initiative of the administration.

These two Forestry Positions coincide with our Utah Team Recommendation in the recently completed Forestry and Woodland Action Plan presented to the WO.  The Team recommended one Forestry Position be located within a northern area and would be the State Program Lead under the USO Table of Organization and would also function as a Field Forester and a northern Senior Technical Specialist available to other northern FO’s.  We are recommending that this position be located in the Price Field Office.  The Price location will provide good communication and physical access for the State Office, but still provide a position in the field to support operations and planning.  The PFO has a considerable amount of forest and woodland resources.  The WO is concerned that the State Lead be accessible and tied to the State Office.  Experience in other states has shown that the forestry program functions well and shows progress when State leadership is in place, accessible to the State Office and on the State Office TO.  The BLM Director also indicated to the County Commission that forestry expertise and management would increase in the Price area.

The Team recommended the second position be located somewhere in the southern part of the state to provide a Senior Technical Specialist readily available in that part of the state.  The position would concentrate initially on biomass, fuels reduction and woodland management, and use of the new stewardship contracting authority in coordination with the fire staffs, but would also be available to support the field offices with forest and woodland management operations and planning, including participation in LUP efforts.  We plan to fill the second position in FY2003 using the $75,000 being allocated to Utah from 2824 funding.  We are requesting recommendations from Field Managers on location of the second forestry position.

The bottom line of the increased emphasis within our Forestry and Woodlands Program is that we are being given a chance to improve our program, but increased accomplishments of Workload Measures will be expected as a measure of our success.  Utah BLM will loose even more funding in out years if we don’t put to good use what we are being offered and advised to do.  The stewardship contracting authority will be a valuable tool in accomplishing forest and woodland management objectives and WUI and fuels reduction projects within the funding allocations in forestry and fire.  It will be up to the Field Office Managers to assure that we “Produce” now and in the future.  FY2003 will be a pivotal year for the woodland and forestry program in Utah.

March 3, 2003