USDA Forestry Research Advisory Council

The Forestry Research Advisory Council (FRAC) was established under the McIntire-Stennis Forestry Research Act of 1962 and meets annually with the mandate to provide the Secretary of Agriculture with recommendations and advice on forestry research funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the USDA Forest Service in the context of emerging issues in the forest sector.

Based on discussions and presentations during its latest meeting in September, FRAC is recommending that USDA forestry research focus on the following:

  • Insure that research is fully integrated with technology transfer efforts. Engage outreach expertise early in the development of the request for application (RFA) process and insure that research projects include the transfer of information and knowledge to the end user in a user-friendly form. Provide incentives for scientists to engage Cooperative Extensions, forestry schools, other agencies and NGOs to extend the knowledge gained from research to landowners and managers. Include methodology to relate research findings into primary-secondary education curricula for fundamental forest management and ecological concepts.
  • Integrate social sciences with biophysical sciences in research projects to strengthen the capability to study coupled ecological and social systems. Complex issues such as climate change mitigation and adaptation, biomass utilization, wildfire, land use, and land management decisions among many others require the inclusion of a diversity of social sciences, in addition to economics, from research problem formulation to science delivery.
  • Develop the supporting science to sustainably manage competing demands on forests and agroforests to produce biofuels, fiber, and water and ecosystem services in concert with measured biological objectives. Integration of biological objectives with social and economic objectives of biofuels research and development is essential to enhance understanding of the interactions of growing, managing, and harvesting biomass for biofuels, and the functioning of rural, peri-urban and urban ecosystems to ensure their sustainability. Because baseline data to measure this sustainability is essential, Forest Inventory Analysis (FIA) support must also be continued to realize the changes occurring in our nation’s forest resource.
  • Maintain intellectual capacity in fundamental forest sciences. Currently there is a decline in scientific expertise and institutional capacity in fundamental areas such as pathology, entomology, silviculture, botany, etc. Loss of this expertise and capacity will reduce the ability to respond to future forest issues such as climate change and other emerging issues and opportunities. Incorporate the need for these disciplines in RFAs; support graduate education efforts in these areas; evaluate joint agency/academy appointments to facilitate graduate education, including mentoring and teaching graduate level coursework; and prioritize these disciplines in filling new agency positions.

Dr. Richard Brinker, Dean of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Science at Auburn University, serves as the chair of FRAC and Dr. Eric Vance of NCASI is a member.

The USDA recently announced a solicitation for nominations for membership to FRAC (Federal Register 75: 68599-68600; November 8, 2010). Current vacancies are for representatives from federal and state, industry, academic, and voluntary organizations. Nominations must be received by December 20, 2010.

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