EDGEFIELD, S.C. -(Ammoland.com)- Dr. Salem Saloom, a family forest owner and avid sportsman from southern Alabama testified today during the Senate Agriculture’s committee hearing Conservation and Forestry: Perspectives on the Past and Future Direction for the 2018 Farm Bill.
Saloom articulated how the Farm Bill has been vital to his, and many other rural landowners, efforts to overcome forest health challenges, provide timber, and improve habitat for wildlife, including at-risk species.
He also provided a suite of smart policy solutions to build on the progress made in the last Farm Bill to support forest owners in conservation.
Saloom in his testimony on behalf of the American Forest Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Federation stated:
“In 2004, Hurricane Ivan made landfall and absolutely devastated our forestland. If it wasn’t for the Farm Bill’s conservation programs, and this committee’s efforts to ensure forest owners’ ability to access to them, we’d be in a very different place today.…Our work with the Farm Bill’s programs also helped us discover benefits our forest could provide local endangered species while still producing timber and other benefits. By working closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to secure regulatory assurances, we were able to expand the activities that benefit these species without having to be concerned that we’re exposing ourselves to the sort of additional regulatory risk under the Endangered Species Act.”
Saloom’s remarks were part of a review of the Farm Bill programs and policies that help private and family forest owners, in addition to farmers, to conduct conservation practices to improve wildlife habitat, protect water quality and preserve the health of forests. The Committee is examining possible modifications to the Farm Bill in advance of its 2018 expiration, to improve on the existing programs and encourage broader participation.
“We estimate one in six rural Americans is a family forest owner. These individuals collectively care for the largest portion of forests across the U.S.,” said Tom Martin, president and CEO of the American Forest Foundation. “These owners want to help wildlife, and can, when they have the right tools and resources. They are a key constituent group that Congress must continue to support if we are to help at-risk species, sustain our forest-based economies and jobs, reduce wildlife risk and protect clean water that runs through our forests.”
“We appreciate the Committee's bi-partisan efforts to continue to improve farm bill programs and the invitation to hear from forest landowners that NWTF works with like Dr. Saloom. The powerful and unique testimony of how Dr. Saloom was able to restore his forest and manage proactively for healthy and sustainable forests, timber harvest, and even at risk species exemplifies what can be accomplished through farm bill programs,” says Becky Humphries, CEO of the National Wild Turkey Federation. “We hope to take this opportunity to advance and improve programs in the 2018 Farm Bill so that work such as this can continue to be done and we can grow the efforts of conservationists, foresters and landowners.”
Saloom reinforced key policy solutions offered by the American Forest Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Federation to improve on the progress made in the Farm Bill to provide tools and incentives to family forest owners to conduct conservation work on their land.
These recommendations include:
- Maintain funding for forestry and conservation programs such as Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) that have proven to provide support for family who at times cannot afford forest management activities.
- Improve technical assistance and program implementation processes for woodland owners. Specifically by encouraging stronger forestry and wildlife agency partnerships with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and landowners, as well as streamlining the planning processes for EQIP and CSP.
- Provide regulatory assurance for at-risk wildlife management. Capitalize on landowners’ interest in wildlife by including policies that encourage proactive, voluntary wildlife conservation actions by family landowners and provide protection from regulatory burden.
- Support cross-boundary, landscape-scale efforts to tackle forestry issues. With the checkerboard ownership patterns of forests across the U.S., encouraging restoration across public and private boundaries in order to increase efficiency and results on reducing wildfire risk and/or protecting at-risk wildlife populations, such as the Empowering State Forestry to Improve Forest Health Act (S. 962).
- Support a strong, diverse forest products industry. Increase markets to incentivize forest management and tackle issues such as at-risk species, which connect landowners with experts such as foresters, and provide needed income to manage for wildlife. Specifically by supporting such bills as the Timber Innovation Act (S. 538).
- Support a fix to wildfire funding in the U.S. Forest Service budget. While not under the jurisdiction of the Senate Agriculture committee, the wildfire funding issue could significantly impact the success of programs within the Farm Bill; support for a fix could solidify funding for the future. In addition to addressing these funding issues, enact policy to improve federal forest management.
About the National Wild Turkey Federation:
When the National Wild Turkey Federation was founded in 1973, there were about 1.5 million wild turkeys in North America. After decades of work, that number hit an historic high of almost 7 million turkeys. To succeed, the NWTF stood behind science-based conservation and hunters’ rights. Thanks to the efforts of dedicated volunteers, professional staff and committed partners, the NWTF has facilitated the investment of $488 million in wildlife conservation and the preservation of North America’s hunting heritage. The NWTF has improved more than 17 million acres of wildlife habitat and introduce 100,000 people to the outdoors each year. The NWTF Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative is a charge that mobilizes science, fundraising and devoted volunteers to raise $1.2 billion to conserve and enhance more than 4 million acres of essential wildlife habitat, recruit at least 1.5 million hunters and open access to 500,000 acres for hunting.
For more information, visit their website.
About the American Forest Foundation:
The American Forest Foundation, as a forest conservation organization, helps ensure family and private forest owners have the tools and resources they need to manage their forests and measurably improve the wildlife habitat, clean water and sustainable wood supplies that Americans count on. In the Southern U.S. in particular, the American Forest Foundation is helping landowners get started managing so they can address the biggest ecological and economical issues facing our forested habitat, which will help protect at-risk species across the region.