USDA Invests More Than $48 Million in Forest Health

U.S. Department of AgricultureImage via USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced it will invest more than $48.6 million this year through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership for projects that mitigate wildfire risk, improve water quality, restore forest ecosystems, and ultimately contribute to USDA’s efforts to combat climate change. This year, the USDA Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will invest in projects, including 14 new projects, bringing together agricultural producers, forest landowners, and National Forest System lands to improve forest health using available Farm Bill conservation programs and other authorities.

“The need for cross-boundary wildfire risk reduction work as part of our Wildfire Crisis Strategy is more urgent than ever. These projects, and the $930 million of investments being made across 21 landscapes in highest-risk firesheds in the western U.S., speak to our commitment to improve forest health and resiliency across the nation’s forests to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “We have long moved beyond wildfire seasons to fire years, with an annual average of 8 million acres burned since 2015; more than 10 million acres burned in three of those years. The Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership promotes cross-boundary work needed to increase the scale of our wildfire risk reduction efforts to protect people and communities, critical infrastructure, water supplies, and ecosystems from extreme wildfire.”

NRCS Chief Terry Cosby added: “These Joint Chiefs’ projects are excellent examples of how federal, state, and local agencies can use targeted funding to achieve results that meet producers’ conservation goals, build drought resiliency, and mitigate climate change. Through collaboration and strategic investments in local communities, we continue to work with the Forest Service to respond to significant conservation needs on private and public lands.”

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The Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership enables the Forest Service and NRCS to collaborate with agricultural producers and forest landowners to invest in conservation and restoration at a large enough scale to make a difference. Working in partnership, and at this scale, helps reduce wildfire threats to communities and critical infrastructure, protect water quality and supply, and improve wildlife habitat for at-risk species.

Congress recently recognized the value of this important USDA program by memorializing it in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law signed by President Biden on November 15, 2021. The law includes enhanced collaboration and public engagement associated with future projects. The Forest Service and NRCS look forward to supporting the now permanent Joint Chiefs’ program to enhance the resilience of our forests, communities, water supplies, and working lands.

USDA is investing $17.4 million in these 14 new projects:

  • Arizona, Fort Huachuca Sentinel Landscape Phase Two
  • Arkansas and Oklahoma, Arklahoma Ozark Watershed Restoration
  • California, Forest Health and Fire Resilient Rural Communities Phase Three
  • Guam, Making Southern Guam Firewise and Wildfire Resistant
  • Idaho, South Teton Valley Hazardous Fuels Removal
  • Illinois, Cross-Boundary Upland Oak Restoration
  • Montana, Elkhorn Cooperative Management Area
  • New Jersey, New Jersey Pine Barrens Restoration
  • North Dakota, Badlands Restoration Phase Two
  • Oregon, North Wasco All Lands
  • Oregon, Southern Blues Restoration
  • Pennsylvania, Allegheny Plateau Habitat Restoration
  • South Carolina, Piedmont Watershed Restoration
  • Wisconsin, Northeast Wisconsin Forestry and Wildlife Partnership

Through 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.

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Additionally, USDA is investing $31.2 million in 25 existing projects. For full project descriptions and information on completed projects, visit the Joints Chiefs’ webpage.

Learn more about the Forest Service work to confront the wildfire crisis.

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