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News Release

NRCS and Forest Service partner to restore and improve forest health

LITTLE ROCK, Ark., Feb. 12, 2014 – The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and United States Forest Service (FS) recently announced a multi-year partnership to improve the health and resiliency of forest ecosystems across the nation.

In Arkansas, the Western Arkansas Woodland Restoration project aims to double the conservation activity on private lands in 29 counties and on the Ozark-St. Francis and Ouachita National Forests over the next three years.

“Both of these agencies have the same goal – improving the health of our forest lands,” Mike Sullivan, NRCS state conservationist said. “The project has two components that will restore and improve forest land. The NRCS portion will provide voluntary, incentive-based assistance to private landowners, while the Forest Service portion will focus on Forest Service lands.”

“The Forest Service and NRCS partnership to improve the health of our forest lands is indicative of the commitment our agencies have to achieving the highest benefits for Arkansas residents through conservation and restoration,” said, Patricia Kowalewycz, Ozark-St. Francis National Forests acting forest supervisor. “Working hand in hand with NRCS, the restoration work of both agencies complements each other and will be much more effective on a larger scale.”

NRCS will receive $2.18 million in 2014 for the voluntary installation of forest land conservation practices to help restore, maintain and enhance more open woodland. Key conservation practices include forest stand improvement (thinning), prescribed burning, firebreaks, tree and shrub planting and forage and biomass planting. All trees, shrubs and grass planted through the program must be native.

“As with all NRCS programs, participation is completely voluntary,” Sullivan said. “This project incorporates the same practices at an accelerated pace landowners have been voluntarily implementing for years.”

The Ouachita National Forest will receive $800,000 in funding. Forest managers will be implementing actions to improve water quality, restore aquatic habitat in the Ouachita and Cossatot River watersheds, and help restore healthy forest communities.

The Ozark-St. Francis National Forest will receive $500,000 in funding. The forests and woodlands in the area provide significant benefits for society. Habitat Restoration in the Sylamore Ranger District of the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests will improve rare communities such as glades and areas used by threatened and endangered species. The project aims to increase the conservation activity in the project area over the next three years.

Nationally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture project, called the Chiefs’ Joint Landscape Restoration Partnership, will invest $30 million in 13 projects across the country to help mitigate wildfire threats to communities and landowners, protect water quality, and supply and improve wildlife habitat for at-risk species.

The 13 priority projects will build on existing projects with local partnerships already in place. By leveraging technical and financial resources and coordinating activities on adjacent public and private lands, conservation work by NRCS and FS will be more efficient and effective in these watersheds.

“Wildfires and water quality don’t stop at boundaries between public and private lands,” Sullivan said. “By working together, we can provide more assistance to help public and private landowners and managers voluntarily put conservation solutions on the ground, providing greater benefits to surrounding communities and habitats, such as mitigating wildfire threats and protecting communities’ water supply in Arkansas.”