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News Release

Federal Partnership reduces Wildfire Threats through local Partnership

 

Contact:

Robert Hathorne, 405.338.5207

robert.hathorne@ok.usda.gov

Oklahoma-Arkansas project to build forest resiliency, enhance economic development

STILLWATER, Okla., Feb. 16, 2016—USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the U.S. Forest Service today announced a federal investment of over $40 million for restoration of forests near growing communities to reduce wildfire threats, protect water supplies, improve wildlife habitat and support rural economies. This is the third year of the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership between the two agencies to improve the health and resiliency of forest ecosystems where public and private lands meet.

“The health of our forests and our rural communities very often go hand in hand,” said Gary O’Neill, NRCS state conservationist in Oklahoma. “USDA works with public and private landowners through a range of programs and partnerships to decrease the threat of wildfire, restore forest habitat and increase economic and other opportunities for the families and businesses that make their homes near woodlands.”

This year, the partnership is sending over $668,000 to Oklahoma and Arkansas through the 2016-2018 Woodland Restoration Project. By working with private landowners, this project will focus on restoring a more resilient, open woodland structure which will improve water quality and quantity, improve wildlife habitat, reduce wildfire losses and enhance economic development in chronically impoverished counties.

Nationally, NRCS is investing $7 million in 11 new Joint Chiefs projects and committed additional investments totaling nearly $33 million in 27 projects launched in 2014 and 2015. Local partners plan to invest up to an additional $11 million in financial, technical and in-kind assistance for the 38 projects.

“The Joint Chiefs’ partnership is one of the many ways USDA is working with local partners to help meet the increasing challenge of protecting communities, watersheds, forests and woodlands from the devastating and increasingly expensive impacts of wildfire,” O’Neill said.

Since its start, $104 million has been invested through USDA’s Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership to reduce wildfire threats to communities and landowners, protect water resources, and improve habitat for at risk species. Summaries of all projects selected can be found on the NRCS website.

Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $29 billion to help producers make conservation improvements, working with as many as 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners to protect over 400 million acres nationwide, boosting soil and air quality, cleaning and conserving water and enhancing wildlife habitat. For an interactive look at USDA's work in conservation and forestry over the course of this Administration, visit http://medium.com/usda-results