USDA announces funding to combat wildfires, protect water quality

USDA invests in wildfire risk reduction, water quality and forest health
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  • $66 million allocated to reduce wildfire risk, protect water quality, and improve forest health.
  • Memorandum of Understanding signed with Western Governors’ Association.
  • $12 million provided through the USDA Forest Service’s Good Neighbor Authority.
  • $55 million allocated through Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership.
  • Call for proposals for fiscal year 2025 projects, due by August 23, 2024.

June 12, 2024 — Yesterday, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Xochitl Torres Small announced an investment of nearly $66 million by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The funding, part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, is directed towards reducing wildfire risk, protecting water quality, and enhancing forest health across the country.

Cooperative Efforts.

In conjunction with the funding announcement, Deputy Secretary Torres Small signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Western Governors’ AssociationOpens in a new tab.. The MOU aims to reestablish a cooperative framework for addressing challenges across western landscapes. This agreement, signed alongside Governors Brad Little (Idaho), Joe Lombardo (Nevada), Michelle Lujan Grisham (New Mexico), Doug Burgum (North Dakota), and Mark Gordon (Wyoming), aims to enhance shared stewardship and integrate forest and rangeland health projects across various land ownerships.

“People across rural America face growing wildfire threats to their homes, business, infrastructure, and resources,” said Deputy Secretary Torres SmallOpens in a new tab.. “Through the investments announced today, President Biden is investing in state and local governments, Tribal partners, and private landowners to ensure our landscapes are healthy, our infrastructure is strong, and our communities stay safe.”

Good Neighbor Authority Funding.

Of the total $66 million, $12 million will be provided through the USDA Forest Service’s Good Neighbor Authority. This funding supports collaboration with state forestry agencies, Tribes, and counties to mitigate wildfire risk and enhance forest, rangeland, and watershed health. The funding, part of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will support 22 projects across 13 states, with nearly $9 million allocated to Western Governors’ Association member states, including Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership.

The USDA is also investing $55 million to reduce wildfire risk and improve water quality and forest health through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership. This collaborative effort between the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Forest Service aims to work with private, state, and Tribal landowners to conserve forests and agricultural lands while safeguarding communities. The $55 million investment will support 41 projects, including 10 new projects, across 11 states.

“These projects are indicative of a growing movement of cooperation around natural resource issues for the betterment of us all,” said Forest Service Chief Randy MooreOpens in a new tab.. “A keystone of the Joint Chiefs’ projects is the people and the understanding that the healthier our forests, the healthier our nation.”

NRCS Chief Terry Cosby added, “The Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership enables NRCS and the Forest Service to collaborate with agricultural producers and forest landowners to invest in conservation and restoration at a big enough scale to make a difference in their communities. Working with federal, state, and local agencies at this scale helps reduce wildfire threats, protect water quality and supply, improve wildlife habitat for at-risk species, and ultimately combat climate change.”

Call for 2025 Project Proposals.

The NRCS and Forest Service are now accepting proposals for the fiscal year 2025 Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership projects. These proposals can include post-fire watershed recovery efforts, wildlife corridors, and other priorities. Applications are due by August 23, 2024.

Additional Context.

The announcement builds on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s recent announcement of $18 million for 23 new Tribal Forest Protection Act projects. Since its inception in 2014, the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership has invested over $423 million in 134 projects across 42 states, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

The Good Neighbor Authority, established by Congress in 2014, allows the Forest Service to enter into management agreements with states, Tribes, and counties. The authority pools resources to complete more restoration work on national forests and grasslands. President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law authorizes $160 million over five years for restoration projects on federally managed lands through the Good Neighbor Authority and the Tribal Forest Protection Act.

Deborah

Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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