USDA earmarks $37 million to promote forest health, reduce wildfire threats

By Agri-Pulse staff

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WASHINGTON, Feb. 19, 2015 - USDA is investing $37 million in new and existing projects to restore forest health and reduce wildfire threats. The plan is being implemented through a collaborative venture between the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), called the Chiefs' Joint Landscape Restoration Partnership.

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"By leveraging the technical and financial resources of both agencies, this coordinated effort is helping to restore lands across large landscapes regardless of whether they are on public or private lands," Robert Bonnie, USDA's under secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, said in a news release.

Fifteen new projects, located in forests across the country, were awarded a total of $10 million. Thirteen other projects - covering over 266,000 acres - will receive an additional $27 million to complete improvements the partnership initiated in 2014 with a $30 million investment. 

Other partners, outside of NRCS and USFS, are also bringing over $5 million in financial, technical and in-kind investment to the table.

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NRCS and USFS' vision for the partnership “is to restore landscapes regardless of land ownership, reduce wildfire threats to communities and landowners, protect water quality and supply and improve habitat for at-risk species.”

"Treating lands to reduce wildfire threats is a smart investment that will protect vast areas of land and potentially save millions of taxpayer dollars,” USFS Chief Tom Tidwell said.

For instance, the partnership's support in 2014 helped Tim Fisher of East Face of the Elkhorn Mountains Partnership in Oregon thin 232 acres of private forest land, which in turn reduced wildfire risk, helped to mitigate soil erosion and improved timber quality.

"Our agencies are being proactive to make sure conservation work flows seamlessly from private to public lands,” added NRCS Chief Jason Weller, “ensuring crucial wildfire and water concerns are addressed and allowing people, like Fisher, to preserve their family lands.”

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