WASHINGTON – (News release) The U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest more than $2.3 million this fiscal year in Arkansas through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership to protect and improve water quality for public drinking water, tourism, fisheries, and rural industrial development; encourage rural prosperity, forest health and resiliency; improve habitat for at-risk species; reduce and mitigate wildfire threats; and promote environmental education.
The Building Resilient Watersheds to Improve Drinking Water in the Ozark and Ouachita Highlands project area includes sites in six high-priority watersheds covering more than five million acres.
USDA’s Forest Service (FS) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will work together to replace degraded and undersized stream crossings, restore shortleaf pine forests, construct permanent fire breaks, reduce fuel loads, conduct controlled burns, and conduct outreach to local communities.
The Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership allows NRCS and FS to collaborate with agricultural producers and forest landowners to invest in conservation and restoration at a big enough scale to make a difference. Working in partnership, and at this scale, helps mitigate wildfire risk, improve water quality and restore healthy forest ecosystems on public and private lands.
“With the help of USDA, private forestland owners can improve their forestry operations while realizing many other benefits, including mitigating impacts from wildfires and improving water quality and wildlife habitat,” said Mike Sullivan, NRCS state conservationist in Arkansas.
“Arkansas NRCS has $2 million available to help private landowners install conservation practices such as forest stand improvement (thinning), prescribed burning, firebreaks, tree and shrub planting and streambank and shoreline protection,” Sullivan said. “As with all NRCS programs, participation is completely voluntary. This project incorporates the same practices at an accelerated pace that landowners have been voluntarily implementing for years.”
Project partners include Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Choctaw Nation, Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts, Arkansas Forestry Association, The Nature Conservancy, National Wild Turkey Federation, Quail Forever, Monarch Watch, ANHC, Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, Central Hardwood Joint Venture, and the 27 organizations involved with the Shortleaf Bluestem Community and Ozark Highlands CFLRP projects on the two national forests.
“Arkansas is honored to collaborate with USDA’s NRCS and Forest Service, and a host of State partners to help private landowners in Arkansas implement conservation practices that will protect and enhance Arkansas’s natural resources,” said Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward.
Nationally, FS and NRCS will invest more than $41 million this fiscal year through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership. Funding for 36 projects includes $10.6 million for 16 new projects and $30.5 million to complete work on 20 projects previously selected in 2018 and 2019.
USDA has invested more than $225 million over seven years to Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership projects, which focus on areas where public forests and grasslands intersect with privately-owned lands.
This year’s selections bring the total number of Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration projects to 85. Since 2014, these projects have delivered important forest and rangeland funding to 40 states and Puerto Rico.
Through 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 their area.
For full project descriptions and information on completed projects, visit the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership website at https://go.usa.gov/xEsyY. For information on the Arkansas project, visit the Building Resilient Watersheds to Improve Drinking Water in the Ozark and Ouachita Highlands site at www.ar.nrcs.usda.gov.