NRCS and the Forest Service seek proposals for Joint Chiefs’ projects to mitigate wildfire risk, protect water quality, improve wildlife habitat, restore forest ecosystems and contribute to USDA’s efforts to combat climate change. Proposals must be submitted by Sept. 4 for fiscal year 2024 funding.
WASHINGTON, July 20, 2023 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is asking for proposals for the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership to improve forest health on public and private lands. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Forest Service are seeking the proposals by Sept. 4, 2023, for fiscal year 2024.
The Joints Chiefs’ program aligns with the Biden-Harris administration’s broader effort to reduce wildfire threats to communities and landowners, protect water quality and supply and improve wildlife habitat for at-risk species. Tree planting activities through the Joint Chiefs’ program are another valuable recovery tool in post-fire areas and supports USDA’s priority for reforestation. President Biden’s 2022 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law codified the initiative, showing broad backing for the effort because of its inclusion in the historic investment to improve infrastructure and support rural communities.
“The Joint Chiefs’ will align with USDA’s shared stewardship strategy by selecting projects that demonstrate a cross-boundary effort, work at the appropriate scale and have mutually defined priorities that support local communities,” said NRCS Chief Terry Cosby. “Partnerships at all levels – federal, state, Tribal and local—lead to well-developed, successful and continued conservation with large scale impacts. Joint Chiefs’ has a proven record of success, as further reflected in the program’s inclusion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”
Fiscal year 2024 projects will build on the fiscal year 2022 and 2023 investments in projects that will mitigate wildfire risk, protect water quality, improve wildlife habitat, restore forest ecosystems and ultimately contribute to USDA’s efforts to combat climate change. Since 2014, USDA has invested $385 million in 124 projects.
“Joint Chiefs’ funding is an invaluable tool to help confront the wildfire crisis across all lands,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “Working with our partners through the Joint Chiefs’ program is an important element that supports the agency’s Wildfire Crisis Strategy by increasing the scale of our wildfire prevention and mitigation efforts while restoring the health of forests, watersheds and habitats across the country.”
Opportunities to Collaborate
Joint Chiefs’ project proposals are developed at the local level through a collaborative process between NRCS, Forest Service, communities and partners. Proposals may address one, two, or all three program objectives: reduce the risk of wildfire; protect water quality and supply; or improve wildlife habitat for at-risk species. Past partners have included Tribes, county and state governments, non-profit organizations, the private business sector, and individual stakeholders. The collaboration process and partnerships will depend on the specific community needs of each project. Proposals are submitted by the local NRCS and Forest Service offices to the national agency offices. They are then reviewed and vetted at multiple levels in the agencies based on Tribal, local, state, and regional priorities.
NRCS and Forest Service national offices will evaluate the proposals and an announcement for the selected projects is planned for late fall 2023.
Landowners should contact their local NRCS and Forest Service office for more information.
In selecting proposals, NRCS and the Forest Service will consider:
- Clear descriptions with goals and objectives, deliverables, timeline and measurable desired outcomes.
- Reduction of wildfire risk in a municipal watershed or the wildland-urban interface (WUI). A municipal watershed is a watershed from which municipal water is provided by a utility.
The WUI as defined by the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003 (16 U.S.C. 6511).
- Development of the proposal through a collaborative process with participation from diverse stakeholders.
- Increase of forest workforce capacity or forest business infrastructure and development.
Leveraging existing authorities and non-federal funding contributions from partners.
- Support of established state, Tribal and regional priorities. Proposals should describe how the eligible activities were prioritized across the landscape and the source of the state or regional priorities (e.g., fireshed analysis, wildfire risk assessment, state technical committee watershed prioritization, Endangered Species Act recovery plan, reforestation plans or priorities, state wildlife action plan, etc.).
- Alignment with USDA priorities and the Justice40 initiative, including benefits to historically underserved producers, disadvantaged communities and climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.
- Partner participation in proposal development or project implementation.
- Coordination (i.e., pre-planning) with individual landowners within the proposal footprint.
- The geographic distribution of individual project activities across the landscape demonstrates a focus on resource conditions and a balance between land ownerships.
- Education and outreach to local communities about the project.
USDA has invested more than $385 million across 124 projects in 10 years through Joint Chiefs’ 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, Puerto Rico and Guam. NRCS and the Forest Service also work together to advance shared priorities through other programs and funding mechanisms and will continue to build on this collaboration to respond to disasters, address climate change, improve forest health and resiliency, and advance equity.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under 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 safe, 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 usda.gov.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.