Joined by partners at an event in Idaho, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie unveiled the 15 Chiefs’ Joint Landscape Restoration Partnership projects for 2015. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Forest Service will invest $10 million in new projects to improve conditions on public and private lands located across the country.
One of the 15 selected projects is the Black Hills Vestal Project. The Vestal Project surrounds the City of Custer, SD, encompassing over 5,000 primary residences within the project boundary and several hundred more immediately adjacent to the project. The project includes mechanical vegetation treatments, as well as prescribed burning to reduce the risk of wildfire and improve the health of the Forest. Funding for this project in 2015 includes $280,000 by the USFS and $150,000 by NRCS.
“This is great news for the Black Hills as it certainly enhances our collective ability to restore forests. It’s a big boost in our “all lands” strategy as we continue to work with partners to make the Forest more diverse and resilient to insects and wildfire,” said Craig Bobzien, Black Hills National Forest Supervisor.
The Landscape Restoration Project (LRP) program capitalizes on authorities provided through the 2014 Farm Bill which assist the Forest Service and NRCS, along with partners, in improving the condition of the nation’s forests and grasslands.
“I am excited about this opportunity as natural resources know no boundaries, public or private. Through our partnerships and working together, we can make landscape changes that are positive for the Black Hills,” said Jeff Zimprich, SD NRCS State Conservationist. “The benefit of this work will not only make a difference in the fight against the mountain pine beetles, but will also improve watersheds and soils across the landscape.”
“This is great news for the community of Custer and the surrounding federal, county and state lands,” said Sheri Schwenke, Hell Canyon District Ranger. “These dollars will continue the good work that our partners have achieved with us in the Vestal project area. We will further improve the protection of private, state, and federal lands from the mountain pine beetle and the threat of wildfire and I’m grateful that our community will be enjoying the benefits of this program.”
In addition to NRCS and Forest Service investments, partners are contributing more than $5 million in the 2015 projects over three years in financial, technical and in-kind services. These 15 new projects, coupled with the 13 announced last year, will help mitigate wildfire threats to communities and landowners, protect water quality and supply and improve wildlife habitat for at-risk species in high priority landscapes across the U.S.
This is the second year of a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and the NRCS to help improve the health and resiliency of forest ecosystems where public and private lands meet. Several of the projects include activities to specifically address landscapes that are already experiencing or are at risk of experiencing insect and disease infestations.
“Strategic investments across landscapes help create resilient forests, grasslands and watersheds while sustaining communities,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “Treating lands to reduce wildfire threats is a smart investment that will protect vast areas of land and potentially save of millions of taxpayer dollars.”
For more information on the SD NRCS visit, http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/sd/home/
For more information on the Black Hills National Forest, visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/blackhills
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