(STL.News) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest more than $12 million this year to mitigate wildfire risk, improve water quality and restore healthy forest ecosystems through targeted projects on both public and private lands in nine states. Since 2014, USDA has invested $213 million in 69 Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership Projects, which focus on areas where public forests and grasslands intersect with privately-owned lands.
Vicki Christiansen, Chief of the Forest Service, and Matthew Lohr, Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, highlighted 13 new projects where the two agencies will work hand-in-hand with agricultural producers and forest landowners to improve forest health using available Farm Bill conservation programs and other authorities.
“Forests stretch across the landscape—public, tribal, and private lands—and these projects aim to enhance, treat, and accelerate forest restoration to improve the health and diversity of these forests,” said Chief Christiansen.
The Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership enables NRCS and the Forest Service to leverage technical and financial assistance collaboratively alongside agricultural producers and forest landowners to help reduce wildfire threats, protect water quality and supply, and improve wildlife habitat for at-risk species.
“With the help of USDA, producers can improve their forestry operations while realizing many other benefits, including mitigating impacts from wildfires, improving water quality, and wildlife habitat,” said Chief Lohr.
About the Projects: The 13 new projects include:
- Bradshaw Cross Boundary, Arizona
- Western Arkansas – SE Oklahoma Woodland Restoration, Arkansas
- Central Sierra Recovery and Restoration, California
- Rural Community Fire Projection and Forest Management, California
- Yreka Craggy Project, California
- Northern Front Range Collaboration Watershed Resilience Project, Colorado
- Mesabi Project, Minnesota
- Wildfire Adapted Missoula, Montana
- Elk Creek Watershed Restoration Partnership, Oregon
- Chiloquin Community Forest and Fire Project, Oregon
- Wonder Community Project, Wyoming
- Nolichucky / Upper French Broad Joint Watershed Restoration, Tennessee
- Buffalo Municipal Watershed Landscape Restoration, Wyoming
During the new three-year projects, landowners will work with local USDA experts and partners to apply targeted forestry management practices on their land, such as thinning, hazardous fuel treatments, fire breaks and other systems, to meet unique forestry challenges in their area.
This year’s projects build on 17 ongoing projects launched in 2017 and 2018. Federal, state, and local partners plan to invest an additional $18 million through financial and in-kind contributions to continue existing projects.
For full project descriptions and information on completed projects, visit the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership website.
A partnership that has demonstrated success over the past two years is the recently completed Arizona Prescott Basin Cross Boundary Project which netted extraordinary benefits on private lands. This project helped protect 28,000 homes for more than 53,000 residents from wildfires, implemented land management strategies on 8,600 acres of public and private land, and improved critical habitat for the Mexican Spotted Owl.
Similarly, the West Virginia Restoration Venture reduced wildfire risk by removing hazardous fuels using controlled burns on 962 acres of oak hickory forests. This project also improved water quality by establishing cover along 56 miles of stream, restored natural hydraulic processes by connecting 49 miles of stream, and planted 80,000 seedlings to enhance habitat for the threatened Cheat Mountain salamander, West Virginia northern flying squirrel, and snowshoe hare.