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Safeguard Our Water By Safeguarding Our Forests

From our largest cities to our most rural farmlands, water is key to the health and security of the American people.  That is one of the many reasons America's national forests are so important. With more than 14 percent of the nation's runoff coming from national forests, they represent the largest single source of water in the United States. Across our nation, more than 3400 communities directly depend on water from our national forests for drinking, irrigation, manufacturing and recreation that supports good paying jobs.

USDA, stream inventory Conserving these water supplies is one of the primary reasons our system of national forests was established and with the nation's water resources at increased risk due to climate change, one of the primary reasons we need an increased focus on water conservation by the U.S. Forest Service. The agency took a step in the right direction last month when they released their Watershed Condition Framework.  

This framework provides a comprehensive approach for proactively restoring watersheds on our national forests and represents a needed shift in how the forest service approaches watershed conservation. Under the framework, agency resources are focused on safeguarding the integrity of healthy watersheds instead of scattered across the landscape. The framework applies a landscape scale approach, capable of conserving a wide range of plants, animals and natural systems, instead of focusing on individual sites.  It also expands the agency's use of partnerships to increase its ability to achieve conservation goals instead of relying mostly on forest service resources. 

The Forest Service should now take the next step and make the safeguards for America's waters in the framework binding by incorporating them into the national forest management rule currently being finalized. Doing so would give forest managers and the public increased clarity and confidence that we are entering a new era of national forest management where conserving clean and abundant supplies of water are a top priority.

By Catherine Semcer

Photo courtesy USDA. 


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