Why It Matters: Sportsmen and women depend on healthy forests to provide quality wildlife habitat, and forest owners and land managers need accurate and accessible information to effectively manage forests. The Forest Data Modernization Act would update the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis Program to better inform forest management decision-making to improve forest health and wildlife habitat to support the outdoor sporting traditions of millions of Americans.
- Modernizing the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program is a priority for the forestry community to ensure forest managers have quality, standardized, and readily accessible data to inform forest management decisions.
- The Forest Data Modernization Act would remedy these data needs by improving accessibility to forest data, improving the usability of the data, and improving data collection methods in addition to increasing FIA program transparency.
On June 9, Representatives Barry Moore and Kim Schrier introduced the Forest Data Modernization Act which would improve forest data collection methods and the type of forest data collected by the U.S. Forest Service’s FIA program. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) supports the legislation and joined conservation partners to endorse the bill. Last month, Senator Jon Ossoff and Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Senator Bill Cassidy introduced the Forest Data Modernization Act of 2023.
Since 1930, the FIA program has collected data on private and public forests across the country to inventory tree volume and biomass, analyze wood production and utilization rates, and assess trends in forest land use and ownership. Forest managers need accurate, accessible information, and the Forest Data Modernization Act would standardize forest measurements, including carbon, and improve how forest data is collected with new technologies while also improving accessibility to forest data and bringing more transparency to the FIA program.
Specifically, the legislation would improve:
- Data accessibility by requiring the publication of summary statistics every two years and the creation of a fee-for-service program to handle complex data requests.
- Data usability by directing the FIA to measure forest carbon and requiring that clear definitions are provided with FIA data to ensure better interpretability of datasets which would allow the forestry sector to leverage collected data consistently.
- Data collection by recommending consideration of advanced technologies for data collection, such as satellite sensors and computer models that could improve data accuracy and reduce costs as well as codifying existing surveys on wood use and forest landownership to ensure continued availability of datasets on which forestry stakeholders rely.
- FIA program transparency by requiring the existing FIA strategic plan to be updated, that future updates be made every five years, and that FIA costs and priorities be published annually.
CSF appreciates the leadership of Representatives Moore and Schrier and Senators Ossoff and Cassidy on this important issue for forest managers and the sportsmen’s community. The improved forest data acquired through the Forest Data Modernization Act would support the science-based sustainable forest management practices that are critical for managing forest habitat for wildlife, and CSF is excited to continue working to support the inclusion of this bill language in the 2023 Farm Bill reauthorization.