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National Forests in Colorado get restoration grants

$1.4 million to help projects on Front Range and West Slope

Moose browse in willows on the Araphoe National Forest, part of a Front Range forest restoration partnership recently awarded a $1 million federal grant.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A few National Forests in Colorado will be able to tackle some long-needed restoration projects with $1.4 million in federal grant funding for collaborative partnerships announced last week.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the selection of Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration projects in nine states that promote healthier, safer and more productive public lands. The projects include partnership efforts on forest restoration treatments that reduce wildfire risk, enhance fish and wildlife habitats, and maintain and improve water quality.

“Working collaboratively with partners at the state, local and private level is an important part of the all-lands approach to improving the health our nation’s forests,” Vilsack said. “These projects will address forest restoration across landscapes, irrespective of ownership boundaries. They will help restore healthy forests and waterways and create green jobs and economic opportunity in rural communities.”

“With the announcement of these selections, this valuable restoration work can begin to promote healthier, resilient, and more productive forested landscapes,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “We look forward to working with our community partners to achieve this vitally important work.”

A Colorado Front Range landscape restoration initiative scored $1 million to increase forest resilience and lower wildfire risks in ponderosa pine ecosystems on the Arapaho, Roosevelt, Pike and San Isabel national forests.

The money will help pay for planning and managing prescribed burns and other treatments to increase resistance to insects and disease. The goal is to reduce threats to communities and watersheds, and improve habitat for fish and wildlife species. The  forests will also have increased capacity to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate after the treatments, according to the Forest Service.

The second Colorado project funded is on the Uncompahgre Plateau, where $446,000 will go toward restoration of seven native plants on 160,000 treatment acres, including key Colorado River watersheds.

The rest of the projects:

4 Forest Restoration Initiative – $2 million Arizona
This initiative, located on the Apache-Sitgraeves, Kaibab, Coconino and Tonto National forests, focuses on the restoration of the southwestern ponderosa pine ecosystem and will treat up to 50,000 acres per year. The work will include prescribed fire and management of natural fires for restoration objectives. Mechanical thinning will also engage new industry to insure that nearly all of the cost of removal of the thinning byproducts is covered by the value of the products.

Selway-Middle Fork Clearwater – $1 million Idaho
The Selway-Middle Fork Clearwater Project is a joint effort between the Clearwater Basin Collaborative and the Nez Perce and Clearwater National Forests. The restoration project will protect communities from wildfire and restore land and water ecosystems. The basin is renowned for pristine waters, fisheries, big game species and scenic vistas. The project work includes: 2,600 acres of commercial harvest and prescribed burning, application of prescribed fire to approximately 10,000 acres, replacement of a culvert to restore fish passage, and the decommissioning of 75 miles of road.

Accelerating Longleaf Pine Restoration – $1.171 million Florida
This project in Northeast Florida is comprised of 234,995 acres in the Osceola National Forest. The proposal seeks to restore forest ecosystems that have been significantly altered by fire exclusion and hydrologic alteration. The work includes: increasing prescribed fire acreage, reducing hazardous fuel loads while harvesting the woody biomass, thinning small diameter trees, restoring historic groundcover, and decommissioning trails and roads.

Southwestern Crown of the Continent – $1.029 million Montana
The Southwestern Crown covers 1,449,670 acres, 70 percent of which is public land. It is one of the most biologically diverse and intact landscapes in the western U.S. It supports 250 bird species, 63 species of mammals, five species of amphibians, and six species of reptile. Restoration will focus on stream and forest habitats using prescribed fire and natural ignitions as tools to restore species composition and structure. Removal of exotic species followed by planting of native species will be used to restore the landscape. Bridge and culvert replacements and upgrades, road restoration and upgrades, removal of fish barriers, and stream channel manipulation are also included.

Southwest Jemez Mountains – $392,000 New Mexico
The Southwest Jemez Mountains area is 210,000 acres, 93 percent of which is divided between the Santa Fe National Forest and the Valles Caldera Trust-Valles National Preserve. The project will improve the resilience of ecosystems to recover from wildfires and other natural disturbance and sustain healthy forests and watersheds. This will be accomplished by thinning and prescribed burning to restore more natural fire regimes. Additional project components include streambank stabilization, invasive plant control, road and trail decommissioning, riparian and wildlife habitat improvement, conservation education, and rehabilitation, closure, and improvement of roads.

Deschutes Skyline – $500,000 Oregon
This project is located on 97,000 acres in the Deschutes National Forest. The majority of the landscape is ponderosa pine and dry mixed conifer forest types. The goal of the project is to restore forest ecosystems to be resilient to natural processes. This will also help to achieve a variety of community goals such as job creation, reduced risk of high-severity fire in Wildland Urban Interface residential areas, protection of drinking water source watersheds, preservation of the scenic and environmental quality of extremely high use recreational areas, and wood fiber for local economic benefit.

The Dinkey Landscape Restoration Project – $829,900 California
The Project includes 130,000 acres on the Sierra National Forest and 20,000 acres of private land. Targeted ecosystems include coniferous forest, foothill hardwood and chaparral vegetation, montane meadows and riparian forests. The project aims to create resilient ecosystems and enhance the ability to adapt to wildfire. It will promote fire resilience, public and firefighter safety, key habitat for sensitive species, proper watershed function, healthy ecosystem processes, and landscape diversity.

Tapash – $1.63 million Washington
The Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative aims to enhance the resilience and sustainability of forests by treating 168,617 acres over ten years. This project is a joint effort between the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, the Yakama nation, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The restoration strategy uses a diverse array of treatment methods including pre-commercial and commercial thinning (including biomass removal), prescribed fire of natural and activity fuels, and trail management activities.

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