USDA Invests More than $48.6 Million to Manage Risks, Combat Climate Change
LITTLE ROCK, Ark., Feb. 21, 2023
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 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 eight 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.”
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 14 new projects including:
- Arkansas and Oklahoma, Arklahoma Ozark Watershed Restoration
Total FY23 Funding Request: $956,009
Partners: Arkansas Department of Agriculture Forestry Division, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC), Beaver Watershed Alliance, Cherokee Nation, Hobbs State Park, Illinois River Watershed Partnership (IRWP), The Nature Conservancy, Northwest Arkansas Land Trust (NWALT), Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Oklahoma Conservation Districts, Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry – Forestry Services (ODAFF-FS), Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC), and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
“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,” said NRCS Arkansas State Conservationist Mike Sullivan.
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.
USDA has invested more than $286 million in 110 projects over eight years in Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership projects, which focus on areas where public forests and grasslands intersect with privately-owned lands. Since 2014, these projects have delivered important forest and rangeland funding to 42 states and Puerto Rico.
Agricultural producers and forest managers interested in participating in Joint Chiefs’ or other USDA conservation programs should contact their local USDA Service Center. Learn more about the Forest Service work to confront the wildfire crisis.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.
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