Updates & Blog

Policy At-a-Glance: Jan-Feb 2024

Collage of three photos: European Union Flags, U.S. Capitol, Hand reaching forward toward a drone in flight.

2024 National Defense Authorization Act Impacts on Drone Use

silhouette of a man operating a drone in an open field

American Security Drone Act impacts federal procurement and usage of drones and UAVs

THE WHITE HOUSE | On Friday, December 22, 2023, the President signed into law: H.R. 2670, the “National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2024,” which authorizes fiscal year 2024 appropriations principally for Department of Defense programs and military construction, Department of Energy national security programs, Department of State, and Intelligence programs; specifies authorities relating to the U.S. Armed Forces; extends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; and other matters.

SGSF Policy Director says: “One important piece of legislation wrapped into the bill is the American Security Drone Act. This legislation impacts the federal procurement and usage of drones and UAVs from certain countries, as well as use of federal funds to purchase or operate these drones by partners, including states. The version included in the NDAA has some tweaks from previous versions (in particular the wildfire response exemption):

  • No purchasing of covered unmanned aerial systems by Govt agencies effective immediately (Sec. 1823)
  • Effective 2 years from now, no operation of covered unmanned aerial systems by Govt agencies.  This includes any contracting for UAS use by Govt agencies (Sec. 1824).
  • Effective 2 years from now, Federal funds awarded through a contract, grant, or cooperative agreement or otherwise made available may not be used to procure a covered unmanned aircraft system or in connection with theoperation of a covered unmanned aircraft system (Sec. 1825).
  • There is an exception to all three of the above sections for wildfire management operations (Sec. 1832).

We will wait to get the Administration take on what this means operationally, but a lot of work has gone into getting ahead of this legislation, knowing it was an inevitability, especially around the wildfire exemption and developing domestically-sourced drone platforms that meet operational needs in the forestry and wildfire sectors.” 

Federal Policy on Old Growth Forests

large oak tree

NASF submits comments on Old Growth Notice of Intent and USFS releases Old Growth threat assessment

On December 19, 2023, the U.S. Department of Agriculture published a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement to amend all 128 national forest land management plans to include consistent direction to manage, conserve and steward old-growth forest conditions. The agency is using data identified in the definition and inventory and the threat analysis process to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement. In response, the National Association of State Foresters (NASF) submitted comments to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) on their Notice of Intent to prepare a NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) document that would amend all National Forest System plans related to direction on management of “Old Growth.”

SGSF Policy Director says: The input SGSF members have provided has helped shape the tone and direction of the letter submitted by NASF, which conveys that a top-down approach to forest planning would circumvent and possibly undo successful state and local-level collaboration, and potentially take valuable resources away from important planning processes already in place.

Also last week, the USFS released a document entitled “Analysis of Threats to Mature and Old-Growth Forests on Lands Managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management” which, like previous reports, details that the greatest threats to old growth on federal lands come from wildfire, insects and disease, and that recruitment of new acreage into old growth conditions through standard growth continues to replace those acres lost to those threats.

Family Forest Carbon Program Expansion

Family, African American, walking though a forest

Family Forest Carbon Program plans to roll-out in the South in 2024

Developed by the American Forest Foundation and The Nature Conservancy, the Family Forest Carbon Program (FFCP) pays small forest holders upfront to implement climate-smart forestry practices that go above and beyond what is otherwise common practice. The program also provides landowners with professional expertise and guidance to help them transition to sustainable management long term. In 2024 FFCP plans to expand into the southern Appalachians from their current program footprint to include parts or all of seven SGSF member states (TN, KY, AL, VA, NC, SC and GA). The covered practice will be for “growing mature forests” for hardwood stands that are naturally regenerated . The acreage minimum for a landowner will be roughly 30 acres with a contract length of 20 years.

FFCP program staff have indicated that Phase 1 roll-out will be in Q1 of 2024 and include all of KY and TN and a northern portion of AL. Phase 2 roll-out will be in Q2 of 2024 and include western portions of VA, NC and SC and northern GA. Program goals over the next 5 years are to enroll roughly 2,000 landowners in the program totaling almost 300,000 acres.

SGSF Policy Director says: “SGSF is excited to learn more about this new opportunity for many of our southern landowners to participate in carbon markets and get recognition for their sustainable management being a climate solution. We look forward to partnering with FFCP and as well as other carbon market program developers to help ensure these opportunities further the goals of State Forest Action Plans and help keep forests as forests in our region.”

European Union Deforestation Regulation

Flags of the European Union

American Hardwood Export Council to conduct independent jurisdictional risk assessments

NASF | The European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) went into force in June 2023 and provides companies trading wood products with EU member states an 18 month transition period to adopt the new requirements. In light of these changes, The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) has commissioned Dovetail Partners to complete independent jurisdictional risk assessments (JRAs) covering timber legality in each of 33 U.S. states identified as significant producers of hardwoods.

SGSF Policy Director says: “Like many forestry partners, SGSF is very concerned about the potential impact on export markets from compliance obligations under this EU legislation. We are working at the policy level to try to get the EU to understand the logistical challenges associated with geolocation and fiber tracking requirements from the law, as well as how we currently monitor forest sustainability and deforestation at the regional and national levels. SGSF and its member agencies are actively working with AHEC and their consultants on providing the EU as much relevant information as possible.

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