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Friday, August 14, 2009

In the News: New Direction for America's forests

Posted by: Amber Benson

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack paid a visit to Seattle this morning. His purpose was to address, for the first time, the Obama administration's direction for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service. Two key leaders in Washington helped kick off the press event. Mary Wagner, Regional Director of the Forest Service, introduced Congressman Norm Dicks, thanking him for his creation of the "Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Act". Congressman Dicks then introduced Secretary Vilsack, highlighting Vilsack's desire to increase funding for Legacy Roads to $100 million and pointing out the Forest Service's $300 million road maintenance backlog in Washington state.

Vilsack presented a new direction for America's forests which will be guided by three principles: conservation, management, and restoration.

"A healthy and prosperous America relies on the health of our natural resources, and particularly our forests," said Vilsack. He went on to discuss the many things threatening our forests, (climate change, wildfires, disease) and how the decline is having an impact on our water supply, communities, wildlife and more.

Vilsack said he no longer wants the Forest Service to be viewed as an agency only concerned with the fate of our National Forests. Instead, he wants there to be a shared vision, one which includes the protection and maintenance of all American forests, including state and private lands. "Our shared vision begins with restoration. Restoration means managing forest lands first and foremost to protect our water resources, while making our forests more resilient to climate change," said Vilsack.

The Secretary also said he believes the growing markets for carbon and sustainable bioenergy will give landowners more of an incentive to maintain and restore forests. He then called on the Forest Service to play a greater role in the development of those markets and ensuring their integrity.

As for the latest in the Roadless Rule, Vilsack reiterated an announcement made by the Justice Department yesterday, that the Obama administration will do whatever it takes to protect Roadless areas in America, even if it means creating a new rule making process.

More news from Komo News:

SEATTLE (AP) - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Friday outlined a vision for managing the nation's forests that placed a high priority on restoration to protect water resources and combat climate change.

"Conserving our forests is not a luxury," but a necessity, the former Iowa governor said at Seward Park in Seattle in his first major address on the Forest Service. Continue Reading.

Read or hear the speech in its entirety.

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