U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said his agency is trying to manage 60 million acres in need of restoration with 40 percent fewer staff and dollars than he had a decade ago.
In an interview with the Missoulian on Tuesday, Tidwell said the agency would depend on partnerships with states and private partners to nurture those ecosystems, protect them from wildfire and provide jobs and recreation for the people who live near them.
“We need to focus on large landscapes, where we’re treating private land and national forest at the same time,” Tidwell said. “And we really need to focus on the outcomes we’re after – healthy, resilient forests that withstand disease outbreaks, fires, drought conditions that we’ll all face in the future. That’s the thing that produces economic activity that sustains communities and eliminates some of the conflict we’re seeing. That’s something we’ve been trying to address for decades in the agency.”
Tidwell said a recent inspector general’s report criticizing the Forest Service’s unscientific way of prioritizing what places would get hazardous forest fuels treated would be addressed. But he added that the agency faces a spreading map of places it needs to defend.
“There are 44 million homes adjacent to or near national forest,” Tidwell said. “That’s a lot of wildland-urban interface. We’re focusing on putting our limited resources in the best places to make a difference.”