Humphries was part of a panel of five forestry professionals representing nonprofits and the forest industry who made recommendations related to the Farm Bill’s forestry title (Title VIII), a key piece to the NWTF’s ability to help conserve forested acres on private lands across the country. Many of the conservation and forestry programs authorized in past Farm Bills include those we work on with our USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) partners through the National Forestry Initiative. In addition, the stewardship authority given to the USDA Forest Service that was made permanent in the 2014 Farm Bill is the largest vehicle through which the NWTF delivers its mission on public lands.
“While the Farm Bill is largely aimed at addressing hunger and food security for our nation, it also is one of the biggest drivers of conservation on public and private lands,” Humphries said. “It is important for us to remain engaged as the 2018 Farm Bill is set to expire at the end of 2023. Much of the work we do on private and public lands finds its roots in the Farm Bill’s conservation and forestry titles, and our long-serving partnerships with the Forest Service and the NRCS gives us unique insight into what programs are working and where there’s room for improvement.”
Humphries, in her brief oral testimony, highlighted a portion of the NWTF’s recommendations, which are more fully detailed in the written testimony, including a desire to see Stewardship Authority given to all federal landholding agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Park Service. This would expand stewardship opportunities to an additional 180 million acres of federal lands. Relating to this authority, extending stewardship contract periods to up to 20 years would streamline efforts by removing delays caused by contract renewals or extensions and creates stability for rural economies by ensuring long-term timber supplies. This stability will encourage mill development and other timber industry infrastructure investments by small businesses, including creating jobs.
She also noted the need to promote prescribed burning as an effective and efficient tool for forest management and prevention of catastrophic wildfires. She pointed to the need for public education on the benefits of frequent, low-intensity and slow-moving fires versus the high-intensity, fast-moving fires that devastate communities and habitat.
Finally, Humphries urged the subcommittee and Congress as a whole to find a solution to the growing use of the courts to stall forest health improvement activities on our National Forests and other lands. Lawsuits brought by groups who are opposed to any type of forest management activities can impede work on hundreds of thousands of acres with one injunction, for months and even years, even when the area relevant to the lawsuit is very localized.
“As the NWTF continues to work through the Forest in the Farm Bill Coalition, of which we are a steering partner,” Humphries said, “our finalized recommendations will be published and promoted through the Congressional Farm Bill effort over the next year. We stand ready to be a resource for and partner of Congress during this process and to ensure our voice is part of the national discussion.”
About the National Wild Turkey Federation
When the National Wild Turkey Federation was founded in 1973, there were about 1.3 million wild turkeys in North America. After decades of work, that number hit a historic high of almost 7 million turkeys. To succeed, the NWTF stood behind science-based conservation and hunters' rights. Today, the NWTF is focused on the future of hunting and conservation through its Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative. Since 2012, this 10-year initiative has already eclipsed goals of conserving or enhancing more than 4 million acres of essential wildlife habitat, recruiting or retaining more than 1.5 million hunters and opening access to more than 500,000 acres for hunting and other recreation opportunities. This critical work will continue to impact wildlife habitat and our great outdoors in the final year of the initiative.