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News Release

USDA announces Ecosystem Resilience Through Conservation Practices Project in Puerto Rico

Contact:
Luis Cruz-Arroyo, Director
787-281-4836 / 787-405-7368


USDA-NRCS Caribbean Area signature logo banner with Puerto Rico pastureland photoEl Yunque National Forest in Eastern Puerto Rico (photo courtesy of USDA Forest Service).San Juan, PR, January 14, 2021 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest more than $46 million this year through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership for projects that mitigate wildfire risk, improve water quality, and restore healthy forest ecosystems on public and private lands. Funding for 37 projects includes $13 million for eight new projects and $33.3 million to complete work on 29 projects previously selected in 2019 and 2020. Through the projects, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Forest Service (FS) are working hand-in-hand with agricultural producers, forest landowners, and National Forest System lands to improve forest health using available Farm Bill conservation programs and other authorities.

These Joint Chiefs projects are proof positive of what can be achieved when there is collaboration at all levels – federal, state, and local,” said Luis Cruz-Arroyo, Caribbean Area NRCS State Conservationist. “We’re proud to help continue these conservation partnerships and successes with these next eight projects, including the project here in Puerto Rico.”

The Puerto Rico Ecosystem Resilience Through Conservation Practices project is one of the eight new projects. Project partners will work collaboratively at a landscape-scale level to increase conservation actions on private lands to improve ecosystem function and health in 22 municipalities in eastern Puerto Rico while improving economic and ecological services for local communities that were impacted by the 2017 hurricanes. The FS State and Private Forestry programs of the International Institute of Tropical Forestry led agency efforts in coordinating this collaborative project.

Conservation practices will be implemented on 30 non-industrial private forest and agricultural properties to promote connectivity between private and public lands. Partners will also conserve and protect targeted species through biological corridor establishment, wildlife habitat improvement, and establishment of new populations of threatened and endangered (T&E) plant species. Furthermore, the rare native tree Eugenia haematocarpa will be propagated and planted at El Yunque National Forest to increase the current populations and improve habitat conditions. This species is currently propagated at El Yunque; continued propagation and establishment of new individuals will ensure the long-term viability of this endangered species within the National Forest. Partners will also develop outreach and restoration techniques and structured management plans with clearly defined goals to integrate wildlife conservation with ecosystem services protection (such as water quantity and soil health). Partners in this project include: International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Para La Naturaleza, Protectores de Cuencas Inc., Envirosurvey Inc., Centro para la Conservación del Paisaje, UPR Sea Grant, and Distritos de Conservación de Suelos y Aguas del Suroeste.

The Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership continues to provide an excellent example of the shared stewardship model,” said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “The program enables federal, state, and local partners to work across boundaries and jurisdictions to accomplish joint management goals at a much larger scale.”

The other seven projects are:

  • Alabama and Florida: Sustaining Gains in Longleaf Pine Restoration Through Coordinated Cogongrass Control
  • Alaska: Prince of Wales Landscape Restoration Partnership
  • Idaho: North Fork Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project
  • New Mexico: Sierra Blanca Restoration Partnership
  • Oregon: Buttes to Basins - All Lands Forest Resiliency Project
  • Oregon: Lake County All Lands Restoration Initiative
  • Tennessee: East Tennessee Aquatic Habitat for At Risk Species

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

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. For full project descriptions and information on completed projects, visit the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership website.

Successful Partnerships

USDA has invested more than $247 million over seven years in Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership website projects, which focus on areas where public forests and grasslands intersect with privately-owned lands. This year’s selections bring the total number of projects to 93. Since 2014, these projects have delivered important forest and rangeland funding to 40 states and Puerto Rico.

More Information

Agricultural producers and forest landowners interested in a project to mitigate wildfire risk should contact their local USDA Service Center to learn if their land is eligible.

All USDA Service Centers are open for business, including those that restrict in-person visits or require appointments. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with FSA, NRCS, or any other Service Center agency should call ahead and schedule an appointment. Our program delivery staff will continue to work with our producers by phone, email, and using online tools. More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus. For information on NRCS Programs and Services in the Caribbean Area visit www.pr.nrcs.usda.gov.

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USDA is an Equal Opportunity Provider, Employer and Lender.

Release No. 2021-06