The U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest nearly $32 million this year to mitigate wildfire risk, improve water quality and restore healthy forest ecosystems in 24 states and Puerto Rico. More than $2,457,750 of that funding will support forestry projects in West Virginia.
Since 2013, USDA has invested $176 million in 56 Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership projects across the country, which focus on areas where public forests and grasslands intersect with privately-owned lands.
“This USDA program brings together a wide variety of state, federal, and local partners to facilitate rural prosperity and economic development in West Virginia,” said Clyde Thompson, Monongahela National Forest Supervisor. “Together we will implement projects to control non-native invasive species, restore spruce forests, improve fisheries and wildlife habitat, and enhance tourism through trail projects and improved forest health.”
“Through Joint Chiefs’, the Natural Resources Conservation Service works with agricultural producers and forest landowners to improve forest health using available Farm Bill conservation programs,” said Louis Aspey, State Conservationist for NRCS in West Virginia. “The Forest Service enhances forest health on public lands – stitching together a larger footprint of healthy ecosystems in priority areas.”
In West Virginia, the funding will support the Appalachian Ecosystem Restoration Initiative. The project area includes five watersheds that form the headwaters of the Potomac and Ohio rivers. The landscape supports several ecosystems that are critical reservoirs of biodiversity in eastern North America, including cold water trout streams, red spruce forests, oak-hickory forests, and northern hardwood forests.
The partners are proposing to restore red spruce forests, mined lands, watersheds, and aquatic habitat, fire adapted oak-history forests, early successional habitat, and various working landscapes on private and public land. USDA and its partners will focus on restoring and re-connecting ecosystems that support this biodiversity, while offering opportunities to boost the local economy.
Private woodland owners in these project areas may be eligible for financial assistance from the NRCS to help them perform forest conservation practices on their land. Contact a local USDA Service Center to learn more.
Visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/mnf/home/?cid=FSEPRD559050 to learn more about the Appalachian Ecosystem Restoration Initiative.