A Forest Service restoration program created and maintained more than 4,500 jobs in fiscal year 2012 and improved the fire resiliency of 380,000 acres of forestland near communities from 2010-12, according to a new report.
The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program was created in 2009 to restore priority forested landscapes, promote job stability, create a reliable wood supply, improve forest health and reduce emergency wildfire costs across the United States.
All of the projects managed under this program are on track to meet their 10-year goals, which cumulatively include treating more than 4 million acres of forest to make them more resilient to wildfire and producing 670 million cubic feet of timber. The projects will also restore 1.6 million acres of wildlife habitat and 3,000 miles of streams.
“The people and communities involved in this program should take great pride in the work they accomplished this year,” said U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Harris Sherman. “These projects represent real progress in bolstering rural economies while conserving our forests for future generations of Americans.”
In addition to creating jobs and protecting communities from wildfire, the 23 projects managed under the program sold some 94.1 million cubic feet of timber, produced 1.2 green tons of woody biomass for energy use, generated $320 million of labor income, reduced fuel for megafires on 229,000 acres away from communities, improved 537,000 acres of wildlife habitat, restored 394 miles of fish habitat and enhanced clean water supplies by improving or decommissioning 6,000 miles of eroding roads.
The Forest Service restored an additional 4 million acres of national forests through other wildfire fuel-reduction and habitat restoration efforts in 2012.
“By directly working with communities and local organizations on these projects, we are able to accelerate restoration work on 500,000 forest acres while providing sustainable jobs in rural communities,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “These projects benefit people, water, wildlife and local economies, and reflect our nation’s strong legacy of caring for the land and serving people.”
Covering a third of the United States, forests store and filter half of the country’s water supply and absorb 20 percent of the country’s carbon emissions. With record wildfires scorching 9 million acres in 2012, and costs of fighting those fires rising, the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program is using the best-available science to make strides to reverse this trend.
Ten of the original project sites have received three years of funding. Ten new sites funded under the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program and three additional funded as High Priority Restoration Projects were selected in February 2012. The program needs sustained funding through 2019 to achieve its 10-year goals. Since its inception, investment in these projects has steadily increased. In fiscal year 2010, Congress appropriated $10 million, with $25 million in fiscal year 2011 and $40 million in fiscal year 2012.