Forestry Assistance Programs

Publication Date: August 2004

Publisher: Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service


Research Area: Agriculture, forestry and fishing; Environment



The Department of Agriculture has numerous programs to support management of state and private forestlands. These programs are under the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Committees of Congress and are often examined in the periodic legislation to reauthorize agricultural programs, commonly known as farm bills. The 2002 farm bill (P.L. 107-171) included a forestry title that replaced two landowner assistance programs with a new program, and created a new program to protect communities from forest fires.

Most of the forestry assistance programs are administered by the Forest Service, with permanent authorization of funding as needed. Some programs provide technical assistance, ranging from relevant literature and research to advice and aid on specific projects. Other programs provide financial assistance, typically through grants (with or without contributions from recipients) or cost-sharing (with varying levels of contributions from recipients). Many programs provide both technical and financial assistance.

Several programs provide assistance to states and to private landowners for planning and implementing forestry and related land management practices -- site preparation for reforestation, tree planting, thinning, pruning, fertilizing, prescribed burning, restoring watersheds, improving wildlife habitats, and other activities. Other programs provide support for protecting forestlands from wildfires, insects and diseases, and from clearing for nonforest uses (such as growing crops or building houses). Both forest practices programs and forest protection programs provide assistance that can reduce the threat of wildfires to nonfederal lands and resources. Additional programs provide development assistance for communities in or near federal forests whose economies have traditionally relied on forests and forest resources. In addition, the International Forestry Program is often included as a forestry assistance program, because it provides technical help on forest practices and protection and because it has often been funded out of Forest Service appropriations for forestry assistance programs.

Finally, states are authorized to request consolidated payments under these programs, for flexibility in their administration, and several coordinating or advisory groups exist to coordinate programs or for specific purposes under one or more programs.

The forest protection programs -- forest legacy (for easements to prevent forest clearing), wildfire assistance, and forest health (for insect and disease identification and control) -- have grown substantially over the past five years. The programs for forestry assistance -- forest stewardship, urban and community forestry, and landowner assistance -- have grown more slowly. Economic assistance programs have declined after peaking in FY2001.

This is a background report that will not be updated unless enacted legislation modifies the programs.