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Owens understands importance of forest stewardship

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To The Editor:

Fifty-eight million acres of forests are at risk of damage from insects, pests, and disease. At the same time, our country could lose up to 34 million acres of forests to development in the next 50 years.

As you well know, forests provide many immeasurable public benefits, including clean air and water, wildlife habitat, places to recreate, and the wood products we all use every day.

New York state can’t afford to lose our forest resources to these impending threats. As just one reason, we can’t afford the loss economically—nevermind the many other benefits we may see disappear. New York’s forest-based sector provides employment for 49,200 people, generating a payroll of over $1.6 billion. In broader terms, forest-based manufacturing and forest-related recreation and tourism contribute over $11.0 billion to the New York State economy.

As just one of New York’s 614,000 family forest owners, I know the best way to preserve our working forest landscape is to provide forest owners with the tools and resources they need to implement good forest stewardship. At the same time, we need to invest in new and traditional market opportunities, so we can afford to implement conservation practices on the ground. What happens down in Washington, D.C. can really make or break many of these potential solutions.

With the upcoming August recess, it’s important to take a second and review what’s been going on in Washington, D.C. related to forest policy since the start of the 113th Congress. Here are just a few examples that are partners in D.C., like the American Forest Foundation, have been working on:

■ Despite the controversy surrounding the Farm Bill, both House and Senate versions look great for forest owners. We’ve fought to improve forest owner access to conservation tools and resources, strengthen programs to fight forest pests, and improve market opportunities. Things are looking good for forests moving forward.

■ House appropriators maintained funding for USDA forest invasive species programs—a seemingly impossible feat, given the contentious fiscal climate. Obviously, they understand that investments in forests now will save on expensive restoration costs in the future.

■ Members of Congress continue to put pressure large federal agencies to change their green building policies, so environmentally friendly forest products can be a part of this rapidly expanding market.

Fortunately for New York’s forests, Representative Bill Owens has been at the forefront of all these discussions, fighting to improve these policies for forest owners. Mr. Owens understands the importance of our state’s forest resources for both the sake of healthy rural communities and the preservation of the many public benefits we all derive from forests. He has been a real champion of our cause.

I realize many folks may be frustrated with our lawmakers, especially as political disagreements have turned more cantankerous and divisive.

But perhaps one bipartisan issue where we see great progress is in policies to protect and enhance our nation’s forests, by giving forest owners the tools they need to be good forest stewards. As an active member in New York’s forest community, I ask you all to be more active in these issues and join me in thanking Mr. Owens for all his support.

Bill LaPoint

Winthrop

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