Federal Agencies Proposals for the Forest Directive by decree


									Federal Implementation of
EC Directive on Forest Conservation

Directive 06-1, Protecting the Forests of the Chesapeake Watershed, commits federal agencies to
accelerate the conservation and stewardship of forests most valuable to water quality. This
Implementation Plan supports the Implementation Document and overall goals and framework
adopted by the Chesapeake Executive Council in 2007. The actions in this Plan will become part of
the Chesapeake Action Plan in 2008 to ensure that commitments are monitored and tracked.

Federal agencies manage approximately 5% of the Chesapeake watershed. This land ranges from large
forest blocks important to maintaining healthy watersheds, to small urban spaces where individual
trees cleanse stormwater and provide clean air, among other benefits. Although federal land managers
in the watershed often promote forest conservation within the context of their broader missions,
additional actions will directly contribute to increasing forest size and, indirectly, to influencing the
actions of neighboring land owners. Federal agencies invest millions of dollars annually to support
implementation of conservation activities on private lands across the Bay watershed.

One of the most strategic investments in the health of the Chesapeake Bay is to conserve high-priority
forests in the watershed and improve forest sustainability across the watershed. Federal programs can
be more strategically aligned to target high-value forests in the following areas identified in Directive
06-1 (e.g., stream and floodplain forest, forested wetlands, headwaters and steep slopes, forests
protecting drinking water supplies, large blocks of forest and sustainably-managed working forests).
Federal investment in sustainable forestry is a critical tool that addresses various environmental
challenges such as greenhouse gas, sprawl, and energy independence. Given the multiple values that
working forests, even individual trees provide, increased investment in family forests is a smart and
productive use of federal resources.

Four areas of initial focus for this plan have been identified by key federal agencies as new directions
for improved coordinated federal action on forest conservation: 1) land-use planning, 2) private
landowner assistance, 3) forested wetlands, and 4) federally managed lands.

1. Support Better Land Use Planning at the Local Level

Local government planning and decisions made regarding zoning, location of infrastructure, site
design and development, significantly influences forest conservation. Federal agencies can work more
closely with states and private groups to assist local government planning. Using spatial data to
prepare local green infrastructure plans can significantly improve the protection of important forest
resources, while effectively directing growth to more suitable areas. Forest resource information is
generally not incorporated into land use planning. Consequently, community planners are often not
able to make sound decisions about the impact of land development on natural resources and water

Through existing education, technical and financial assistance programs, Federal agencies can help
support better local level watershed and land use planning. For example, EPA, NOAA and NPS are
supporting implementation of a network-based approach to delivering these services to local
communities through Chesapeake NEMO (Network for Education of Municipal Officials). A number
of state and non-governmental partners are collaborating in this growing effort. In addition, the NPS
Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program is providing technical assistance to communities
and watershed organizations, as well as participating in the NEMO network. Identified geographic

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areas for enhancing management actions, a CBP partner effort being coordinated by USGS, can
further assist local decision makers to protect and restore forests.
The following actions will expand federal assistance in watershed and land use planning:

     a. By 2009, complete a strategy for the coordination and targeting of federal financial assistance
        to local governments that have adopted forest conservation and/or green infrastructure plans
        protective of watershed and water quality.
     b. By 2009, provide eight local governments with education and technical assistance for
        conservation and other planning in areas identified by states as a high priority for forest
     c. By 2009, establish and implement a mechanism to track and assess forest land cover change
        every five years at the county and township scale, and to deliver this capacity to local
        governments, watershed groups, and other partners.
     d. By 2008, identify geographic areas for enhancing management actions of lands most protective
        of water quality.
     e. By 2008, hold a Chesapeake Forest Conservation Summit to outline steps that will improve
        collaboration between local governments, watershed organizations, and land trusts as they
        work to identify and protect those forests most valuable to water quality.

2. Enhancing the delivery of technical and financial assistance to private forest landowners

Landowners in the Chesapeake Bay region need additional resources to conserve, maintain, and
improve their natural resources, including important forest lands. The partners in the Bay program will
explore collaborative opportunities to provide increased technical capability, including direct
conservation planning, design, and implementation assistance, to help people plan and apply
conservation on their land. This assistance will be to individuals, groups, and communities who make
natural resource management decisions on private, federal, state and other lands.

     a.        Beginning in 2008, NRCS State Conservationist and State Foresters in each Bay State will
               meet on an annual basis to enhance collaboration among NRCS, state forestry agencies,
               and other State Technical Committee partners and to identify opportunities for use and
               coordination of federal and state cooperative programs that could increase support for
               forest conservation. By 2009, Federal and State partners will explore opportunities to
               increase the amount of critical forest resources, including riparian forest buffers in CREP,
               into long-term easement programs like the USDA Farm and Ranch Lands Protection
               Program (FRPP) and others.
     b.        By 2010, Federal and State partners will explore opportunities to accelerate their support
               for the development and implementation of watershed-scale planning to help determine
               where conservation investments would best address the concerns of landowners, counties,
               watershed groups, and other stakeholders. These assessments will help landowners and
               local leaders set priorities and determine the best actions to achieve their goals.
     c.        By 2010, state Forest Stewardship Coordinating Committees will review maps of high
               value forests for water quality and develop proposals for protection of those forests
               through Forest Legacy and other conservation programs.
     d.        By 2009, Federal and State partners will assess the feasibility of a biofuels initiative,
               especially a “wood to energy” program and develop a strategy to support expansion of the
               cellulosic biofuels industry. Agriculture and forest products have the potential to become
               increasingly important sources of renewable energy and provide significant economic
               opportunities for in the Chesapeake Bay region that can correspond with efforts to
               improve water quality.

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     e.        By 2009, establish a framework - including development of baselines for ecosystem service
               credit generation and development of business plan - for regional market-based ecosystem
               service transactions as an incentive for landowner stewardship of forest resources.

3. Protecting and restoring forested wetlands

Conservation of wetlands and associated upland forest in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is a focus of
the Strategic Habitat Conservation Initiative being implemented by the USFWS. Areas where
wetlands are interspersed with forest are highly effective at cleansing overland water flow of excess
nutrients and sediment before it enters Bay waterways. These systems also provide essential habitat for
migrating songbirds, waterfowl, insects, and amphibians. Approved watershed plans may provide
regulators with a guide to avoid and minimize impacts to wetlands and compensate for authorized
wetland losses. Where impacts are unavoidable, the draft National Mitigation Rule published by EPA
and Army Corps of Engineers will (if finalized without change) allow regulators the flexibility to
design mitigation projects on the landscape for the greatest resource and watershed benefit.

Private land owners in the Chesapeake Bay region can benefit by voluntarily receiving financial and
technical assistance in return for restoring, protecting and enhancing wetland functions and values.
These actions will provide for a reduction in problems associated with farming potentially difficult
areas and receiving incentives to protect critical forest areas, to develop wildlife recreational
opportunities and help restore the water quality of Bay.

By 2010, federal representatives of CBP will work with each other and with state wetland regulatory
agencies to more effectively conserve forested wetlands in the following ways:
     a. Partners will look for ways to collaborate and provide voluntary technical and financial
          assistance to eligible landowners to address wetland, forested wetland, wildlife habitat, water
          quality, and related natural resource concerns on private lands in an environmentally
          beneficial and cost-effective manner.
     b. Use the new National Mitigation Rule guidance to strategically locate new wetlands for
          functionality, including off-site locations.
     c. Determine the feasibility to require higher mitigation ratios for wetlands that are bordered
          by forest; consider adverse secondary impacts (i.e., forest fragmentation) of permit issuance
          on adjacent forest.
     d. Expand the use of perpetual easements on wetlands restored through mitigation.
     e. Support ecosystem market-based initiatives that expand wetland mitigation opportunities
     f. Explore economic incentives for private landowners (e.g., purchase of perpetual easements
          for potential off-site mitigation) and developers (e.g., streamlining the 404 permitting
          process for projects that avoid destruction of wetlands).

4. Lead by example in managing federal lands

Federal land managers can lead by example in retaining and maximizing forest cover on federally
owned properties, consistent with their respective authorities. When addressing development that
threatens the conversion of forest lands, federal agencies will use the guideline of “Avoid-Minimize-
Mitigate.” In other words, for developments affecting forests on federal land, federal managers will
work to avoid and minimize conversion of forests and mitigate unavoidable loss (i.e., avoid all
forestsavoid most valuable forestsreduce construction footprint (minimize) replace lost forest
(mitigate)). Mitigation will replace forests of equal value and if possible occur on the same federal land
holding. Other natural BMPs (such as raingardens, bio-retention swales, etc.) will be used to mimic
pre-construction hydrology provided by forested lands.

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Conservation outside of federal land holdings:
Federal land managers help with conservation planning outside of the federal land holding for various
reasons. In most cases, lands that are identified as high value for conservation can be held as
easements by land conservancies instead of being acquired. This is encouraged and is more cost-
effective than land acquisition.

The Department of Defense has addressed urban encroachment concerns while providing natural
areas by establishing “compatible use buffers” and conservation planning around military bases.
Other federal agencies could institute a similar program as a precaution against poor land management
decisions and to create larger blocks of natural areas.

It is important that federal land managers set an example of land stewardship that encourages state,
local and private land owners to do the same. Federal agencies have the obligation to be leaders in
this area by example, through green infrastructure, low impact development, LEED certified
buildings, green technology, and collaborative land management.

The following actions apply to federal land management agencies in the Chesapeake watershed:
     a. By 2008, begin planning, programming, and budgeting to use the sequencing requirement of
          "Avoid-Minimize-Mitigate" for developments involving forests on federal land. Mitigation
          should occur on the same federal land holding when possible.
     b. By 2009, establish a protocol where federal funds may be used to purchase conservation
          easements on lands within the same local jurisdiction to offset significant impacts of
          development on federal lands.
     c. By 2008, where development on federal lands is unavoidable, use innovative stormwater
          practices, prioritizing tree conservation, restoration, and other green infrastructure elements
          over standard, structural stormwater practices. Ultimately, this will lead to a “no net
          increase” of stormwater from each site.
     d. By 2010, all forests over 50 acres on federal land will conduct forest management practices
          to ensure sustainable forests, where resources are available. Federal partners with adjoining
          land will find ways to work together as forest stewards. For example, the Baltimore-
          Washington Partners for Forest Stewardship is represented by five federal agencies.
     e. Identify opportunities to plant trees on each federal property: by 2009, federal land
          managers will report the number of acres/trees to be afforested by 2011.
     f. By 2010, federal lands managers in developed areas will help set or realize municipal tree
          canopy goals, in coordination with local government.

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