Forest Service

USDA allots $490 million to reduce wildfire risk

The USDA selected 11 additional landscapes in the West as the sites for expanded efforts to reduce the risk of wildfires, announced Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday. Some $490 million was earmarked for the landscapes, raising USDA expenditures on its Wildfire Crisis Strategy to $930 million across 45 million acres.

‘Significant progress’ in Covid-19 vaccinations at USDA

USDA "critical services" will not be disrupted by the Biden administration mandate for federal workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19, said the department on Monday as the deadline passed for inoculations. Farm and livestock groups said earlier this month the mandate might leave the USDA short of meat inspectors or staff at its local offices.

Did USDA pay Alaska to lobby USDA?

The top Democrats overseeing the Forest Service asked the inspector general on Monday to investigate whether USDA grant money to Alaska was used by the timber industry to argue for more logging in the Tongass National Forest. The Forest Service is weighing a state request for a full exemption from a 2001 rule that bars road construction and logging in undeveloped forests.

Forest Service will tighten sexual harassment procedures in wake of new report

The Forest Service said on Tuesday it will tighten its procedures after an inspector general’s report found its sexual harassment policies lacking. The report identified three instances in which supervisors did not explain adequately why they gave more lenient punishment than was agency …

Final farm bill hurdle: White House forestry demands

Congressional leaders are taking a direct hand in the final farm bill fight—the Trump administration's demands for a freer hand in fire prevention in national forests—with a decision possible as early as today that would allow a lame-duck vote on the $87 billion-a-year legislation. Negotiators have resolved the headline issue, a proposal by House Republicans for stricter SNAP work requirements, but are keeping it under wraps until the compromise bill is complete.

Trump taps former Forest Service deputy to run USDA natural resources arm

James Hubbard, who retired as deputy chief of the Forest Service in 2017, is President Trump's choice to become agriculture undersecretary for natural resources, announced the White House. His primary job will be oversight of the Forest Service, with its 154 national forests and 20 grasslands on 193 million acres in 43 states and Puerto Rico.

Perdue schedules a two-day, three-state ‘back to our roots’ tour

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue plans to visit three New England states today and Friday "to gather input for the 2018 farm bill and increasing rural prosperity," announced USDA. The "back to our roots" tour follows a swing through five Midwestern states at the start of August.

New chief of Forest Service has worked for the agency since age 18

The regional forester for the southern United States, Tony Tooke, is the new chief of the Forest Service, the USDA agency in charge of 154 national forests and 20 grasslands covering a combined 193 million acres (301,600 square miles) across the nation. Tooke is a lifelong employee of the Forest Service, joining at age 18, and was associate deputy chief of the agency before taking the job as regional forester.

Decision on grazing sheep in wilderness area takes longer than expected

The Forest Service is wading through public comments on its proposal to continue to allow ranchers to graze up to 5,600 sheep in the largest wilderness area in Colorado, which is three-quarters of the size of Rhode Island, says The Associated Press. Despite hopes that a decision on the year-old proposal would be announced this winter, it could be months before that happens, according to a Forest Service spokeswoman.

An oil advocate for Interior, who for USDA?

More than a quarter of the land in the United States, mostly in the West and Alaska, is owned by the federal government, a massive stewardship challenge and a frequent cause of friction with local governments. President-elect Donald Trump apparently has settled on Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a proponent of oil and gas development, to run the Interior Department, which oversees 416 million acres. But transition officials are silent on his choice for the Agriculture Department, which controls nearly 193 million acres of forest and grassland.

Forest Service offers drought warnings, and solutions, for rangeland

The U.S. Forest Service released a new report on Monday, detailing the effects of drought on forests and rangelands.

Wildfires burn record 10 million acres

Since 2000, the wildfire season has grown longer and more severe. A record 10.125 million acres were burned by wildfires in 2015, breaking the record set in 2006, said the USDA, which spent $2.6 billion on firefighting, its most expensive fire season ever.

Vilsack asks for long-term solution for forest-fire funds

"In a smoldering letter to lawmakers," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Congress failed to enact a long-term plan to pay the cost of fighting forest fires, despite giving the Forest Service a healthy increase in funding this year, reports the Washington Post.

Forest Service to spend more than half its budget on wildfires

For the first time, the Forest Service will spend more than half of its budget fighting wildfires, says a USDA report that predicts wildfire suppression will consume two-thirds of the agency's annual budget a decade from now.

Forest Service would limit photos in wilderness areas

The U.S. Forest Service would require reporters to pay up to $1,500 for permission to take photos or video in federal wilderness, says the Portland Oregonian. The restrictions are part of a proposed land-use regulation. The newspaper quotes the Reporters Committee on Freedom of the Press as saying, "It's pretty clearly unconstitutional." A Forest Service official said the limits have been part of a temporary rule for the past four years and are intended to keep the land as wilderness.

Cost of fighting wildfires crowds out Forest Service work

The Forest Service spends 42 percent of its money to fight forest fires, a share that has nearly tripled in size since 1995, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in calling for a new approach to wildfire funding. To help pay for fire-fighting, the Forest Service, a USDA agency, routinely …

USDA awards $6 mln for climate change research

On Earth Day, AgSec Vilsack announced in Des Moines that USDA awarded $6 million to 10 universities to study the effects of climate change on agricultural production and to develop responses to them.