Wednesday, December 21, 2016

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USDA Commits $32 Million to Protect Natural Resources through Joint Chiefs’ Partnership  

BOISE– The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced a new investment of $32 million to improve the health and resiliency of forest ecosystems where public forests and grasslands connect to privately-owned lands, said Curtis Elke, State Conservationist for the Natural Resource Conservation Service in Idaho.  

Through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Forest Service will invest the new funds in fiscal year 2017 to add 10 new projects and support 26 partnership projects already underway. Federal, state and local partners will bring an additional $30 million through financial and in-kind contributions over three years to implement the newly added projects. With this funding, Joint Chiefs’ projects will extend to 29 states.

  “This federal, state and local collaboration helps local partners meet the growing challenges that come with protecting communities, watersheds, forests and woodlands from the devastating and costly impacts of wildfires and other threats, while protecting water resources, and improving wildlife habitat,” Elke said.  

Idaho will receive a total of $204,800 for the Curlew National Grasslands Area Restoration Project in fiscal year 2017.  The NRCS portion is $99,000 and the balance will come through the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Idaho also has a Joint Chiefs Project in the Upper North Fork, which will receive $435,800 through USFS. Each project is three years in duration.  

The Curlew Area Restoration Project consists of several multifaceted and interrelated projects planned for the Curlew National Grassland and adjacent private lands. These projects have been developed to improve watershed and natural resource conditions while benefitting local farmers ranchers, and the general public.

Activities will improve public safety, improve water quality and aquatic habitat, increase riparian and wetland habitat, remove invasive plants, protect sagebrush habitat, improve grazing and farming practices, improve recreation opportunities and increase public awareness about restoration activities.  

Idaho’s Upper North Fork is an example of a project that provides a big benefit for a small investment. Fires often spread from private property onto public lands where they can become wildfires. The fix is to stop fires at the point where they start, before they have a chance to spread. However, many private landowners do not have the technical knowledge or funds to treat hazardous fuels on their property.

This project targets private lands where fires have a high probability of starting and adjacent National Forest lands where they will initially spread. Proactive treatment in these areas is effective and protects a vast area of public land. By working collaboratively with grassroots partners and our sister agency, the U.S. Forest Service, we are able to implement straightforward projects that benefit both public and private lands as well as the communities those lands encompass,” Elke said.

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