Skip Navigation

News Release

USDA Invests Millions to Protect Communities from Wildfires, Restore Forest Ecosystems, Improve Drinking Water

Joint Chiefs

For more information contact:
Katherine K. Burse, State Public Affairs Officer
PH: 615-277-2533

[PRINT VERSION]

NASHVILLE - The U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest more than $12 million this year to mitigate wildfire risk, improve water quality and restore healthy forest ecosystems through 13 targeted projects on both public and private lands, including one in Tennessee. Since 2014, USDA has invested $213 million in 69 Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership projects, which focus on areas where public forests and grasslands intersect with privately-owned lands.

The Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership enables the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Forest Service to leverage technical and financial assistance collaboratively alongside agricultural producers and forest landowners in Tennessee to help reduce wildfire threats, protect water quality and supply, and improve wildlife habitat for at-risk species.

With the help of USDA, producers can improve their forestry operations while realizing many other benefits, including mitigating impacts from wildfires, improving water quality, and wildlife habitat,” said Sheldon Hightower, NRCS State Conservationist in Tennessee.

About the Project

Nolichucky and Upper French Broad Joint Watershed Restoration Project

This 1,000,000-acre project includes private and Tribal lands in the southern Appalachian Mountains and encompasses Cocke, Greene, Washington and Unicoi counties. These three counties are designated by NRCS as Strike Force Counties targeted to aid farmers who face persistent poverty. The project area offers the potential for excellent habitat for Golden-winged Warblers, shortleaf pine, Table Mountain pine, and oaks - all of which are in decline due to historic fire suppression and land management practices.  Goals and objectives for this project are to reduce and mitigate wildfire threats to communities and landowners. Partners will also protect water quality and supply for communities and improve habitat quality for at-risk or ecosystem surrogate species.

During 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 Tennessee. 

This partnership builds on 17 ongoing projects launched in 2017 and 2018.  Federal, state, and local partners plan to invest an additional $18 million through financial and in-kind contributions to continue existing projects.

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

Successful Partnerships

A partnership that has demonstrated success over the past two years is the recently completed Arizona Prescott Basin Cross Boundary Project which netted extraordinary benefits on private lands. This project helped protect 28,000 homes for more than 53,000 residents, implemented land management strategies on 8,600 acres of public and private land, and improved critical habitat for the Mexican Spotted Owl.

Similarly, the West Virginia Restoration Venture reduced wildfire risk by removing hazardous fuels using controlled burns on 962 acres of oak hickory forests. This project also improved water quality by establishing cover along 56 miles of stream, restored natural hydraulic processes by connecting 49 miles of stream, and planted 80,000 seedlings to enhance habitat for the threatened Cheat Mountain salamander, West Virginia northern flying squirrel, and snowshoe hare.

More Information

Ag producers and forest landowners interested in a project to mitigate wildfire risk should contact their local USDA service center to see if their land is eligible. More information is available online at https://go.usa.gov/xEsyY.

# # #

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).

“Voluntary Conservation Works!”