Family Forest Blog

A Q&A With AFF’s New Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, Michael Reed

Cristina Zepeda-Almazan

September 7, 2021

The American Forest Foundation (AFF) is excited to welcome Michael Reed as the new Vice President of Policy. Before coming to AFF, Michael served as the Chief of Staff to Congressman Sanford D. Bishop (D-GA). With nearly 20 years of experience working for an appropriator specializing in agriculture and rural development issues, Michael comes to AFF ready to continue positioning AFF’s policy team as a leader on key forest policy issues.

We sat down with Michael to learn more about what he’s looking forward to in his new role at AFF. 

Favorite Tree—White Dogwood

Favorite Forest Activity— Walk in the woods

Favorite Wildlife Critter— Owl

Michael Reed-Photo

Michael Reed, AFF's VP of Policy and Advocacy.

What is your connection to America’s family forest landowners?

I had the opportunity to work with many of Georgia’s forest landowners during my tenure with Congressman Bishop. But what most drove me into the dynamics of privately-owned forests was the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, which had a particularly devastating impact on privately-owned forests in Florida and south Georgia. I played a central role in both developing and writing the Disaster Recovery Act, as well as working with Secretary Perdue and his team in executing the bill.  It was eye-opening to learn that 1 in 4 rural Americans owns forestland and does what they do at the risk of losing it all in a natural disaster.

What are your top priorities coming into AFF?

My first priority is to continue the great Federal and state policy work led by Rita Hite here at AFF.

We have several pieces of legislation which are currently pending in the House and Senate, including the Rural Forests Markets Act and the Disaster Reforestation Act, both of which would provide essential financial resources for family forest owners across the country.  The policy team is also working closely with Congress on the budget process to ensure funding for a variety of forest related programs.

What are you most excited for in your new position as VP of Policy and Advocacy?

I am a policy geek! I have worked on agriculture issues for the last two decades and see real opportunities for policymakers to engage the family forest owner demographic. Joining AFF provides an opportunity to dive deeper into an area that's important to me..

As a Capitol Hill expert, what are your thoughts on how the government can partner with rural America to support critical benefits that come from our nation’s forests?

Almost every President in recent history has been active on the issue of climate change, but not to the degree exhibited by this President. Just look at the Administration’s FY2022 Budget proposal, scattered with a variety of programs and funding for climate change initiatives.

No discussion about climate change should occur without a very serious look at our nation’s forests and the pivotal role they play and the potential they have to do more. U.S. forests and forest products annually sequester and store 15% of all U.S. emissions annually.  What’s more, we can dramatically increase the contribution of our forests by nearly two-fold. The benefits will be enormous, including new jobs, cleaner air and water, not to mention a healthier environment for wildlife.

It will be up to the Congress, both the House and the Senate to approve and adopt many of the policy and funding proposals offered by our new President.  AFF has an important role in ensuring that our forests, especially family-owned forests, are central to any policy discussion on climate change. Our job is to make sure that family forest owners and the land they care for are being represented, and I am very pleased that I have been given the opportunity to assist AFF in doing so.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I’m a gardener of sorts…!

My garden includes White Dogwoods, Ginkgo, Eastern Redbuds, Foster's Holly, Japanese Snowbell, Bloodgood Japanese Maple, Green Giant Arborvitae and Alaskan False Cypress along with a variety of shrubs and perennial flowers.

Cristina Zepeda-Almazan

September 7, 2021

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