Interior Department program funding leverages collaborative partnerships to protect critical habitats, natural resources and wildlife from risk of wildfire
BOISE, ID – (ENEWSPF)–May 24, 2016. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced $10 million in funding to help increase the resiliency of critical landscapes across the country to better mitigate the impacts of wildfire and climate change.
The Wildland Fire Resilient Landscapes Program is a new approach to achieve fire resiliency and help restore public lands nationwide through multi-year investments in designated landscapes. Launched last year, the program incorporates goals of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy and Secretarial Order 3336, Rangeland Fire Prevention, Management, and Restoration, by ensuring that projects emphasize a high level of collaboration with partners, landscape-scale planning across multiple jurisdictions, lessen the risk from catastrophic wildfire, and enhance the protection of critical natural resources and watersheds.
“These projects will protect the nation’s diverse landscapes making them more resilient to wildfire for future generations; with help from our partners who also recognize that this challenge is too great for any one organization to tackle on its own,” Secretary Jewell said. “The funding restores iconic landscapes and vital watersheds, reduces fuels and controls invasive species to re-establish native vegetation, while reducing the risks to the public and our firefighters who respond to wildland fires.”
Secretary Jewell called on Congress to fix how the federal government budgets for wildland fire suppression. If the fire season is as costly as recent years, federal agencies will be forced to take funding out of other critical programs that increase the long-term resilience of public lands to fund wildfire suppression. President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget continues to propose changing how the federal government budgets for fire suppression costs to treat the requirements of extreme fire seasons in the same way as other emergency disaster needs.
Jewell made the funding announcement after touring the Soda Fire Rehabilitation site, the location of a nearly 280,000 acre wildfire burn last year, affecting federal, state and private lands in southwest Idaho and eastern Oregon. The Soda Fire represents the most significant loss of sage-grouse habitat in a single fire season, burning portions of more than 40 grazing allotments, popular motorized and non-motorized trails and more than 400 square miles of wildlife habitat. She was joined by federal family firefighting partners who provided recovery resources and are now providing rehabilitation expertise at this site, including at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
“These projects emphasize collaborative landscape-scale planning to reduce the risk from catastrophic wildfire while enhancing the protection of watersheds and critical culture and natural resources,” said Kris Sarri, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Policy, Management and Budget. “The work being done provides valuable insights on making landscapes resilient to wildfire. The benefits of the program are already being realized, and the President’s budget requests $30 million to help us expand this program to more states.”
Through a competitive evaluation process in 2015, the Interior Department selected 10 projects and provided an initial $10 million in funding for them as a pilot program when the Wildland Fire Resilient Landscapes Program was first announced. The approved proposals, known as Resilient Landscape Collaboratives, received funding at a scale to provide results in five to ten years. The funding announced today will support the second year of work for these projects. A map and additional information on each project are available here.
- Bi-State Sage-Grouse ($1,029,616) – Located in Nevada and California inside the Great Basin Desert, the project covers more than four million acres and addresses fire and habitat resiliency for sage-grouse and other wildlife. This project also improves local economies by providing woodland products to the public, tribes and commercial entities. The BLM is partnered with the Nevada Department of Wildlife, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Great Basin Institute, and the NRCS to carry out the initiative.
- Bruneau-Owyhee ($500,000) – Located in Idaho, the project is treating conifer encroachment to benefit fire resiliency and the greater sage-grouse. The BLM is working with several conservation organizations on the project, including the Idaho Department of Lands and Office of Species Conservation, the NRCS and Owyhee County.
- Grant Grove Peninsula ($313,000) – Located in California, the project seeks to restore fire resiliency in Sequoia groves and other conifer forests while also benefiting watershed health and habitat for the Pacific Fisher. The National Park Service (NPS) is working with the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service, CAL FIRE, and University of California-Berkeley on the restoration initiative.
- Greater Sheldon Hart Mountain ($404,000) – Located in parts of Oregon, Nevada and California, the project focuses on restoring sagebrush shrub and native perennial grass/forb communities by controlling juniper expansion. The restoration work benefits numerous wildlife species, including several species that are listed or are candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act, as well as a number of birds that rely on sagebrush-steppe habitat. The FWS will work on the restoration initiative with the BLM, Summit Lake Paiute Tribe, and partners, including conservation and hunting groups, private landowners and ranching associations, counties governments, the states of Oregon and Nevada, universities and other federal agencies.
- Longleaf Pine – South Atlantic ($980,000) – Located in Georgia, Florida, North and South Carolina and Virginia, the project uses prescribed burning to help restore resiliency in the fire-adapted Longleaf Pine ecosystem, benefitting the red-cockaded woodpecker and other species listed as threatened or endangered under state and federally preservation laws. The FWS is working on the project with other federal agencies, South Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative members (comprised of state and federal agencies), The Nature Conservancy, The Conservation Fund and Apalachicola Regional Stewardship Alliance.
- Santa Clara Pueblo ($800,000) – Located in New Mexico, the project will complete restoration of the natural fire regime (the natural frequency, intensity, size, pattern, season, and severity of fire) on the mesa top lands, protecting ancient cliff dwellings, cultural sites, traditional food sources and watershed health. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is the lead agency, working on the initiative with the Santa Clara Pueblo and other partners.
- Southern Arizona ($414,150) – Located in Arizona, the project focuses on control of buffelgrass – an exotic fire-adapted invasive grass – in the southwest desert, restoring natural fire regime and resilience to the biologically rich Sonoran Desert. The NPS works on the effort with FWS, other federal agencies, Pima County and the Southern Arizona Buffelgrass Coordination Center (government agencies and non-government organizations).
- Southern Utah ($3,500,000) – Located in Utah, the project goals are to remove encroaching pinyon pine and juniper, vary the age of sagebrush communities, and establish vegetation to restore resilience of the landscape, benefitting the greater sage-grouse and other sagebrush-dependent wildlife. The BLM is carrying out the work with other federal agencies, Utah state agencies and Utah State University.
- Southwest Colorado ($1,029,618) – Located in Colorado and Utah, the project will restore wildland fire resilience across the landscape, including sagebrush communities and river corridors. Using prescribed fire, mechanical treatments and invasive species control, habitat will be improved for the listed Gunnison sage-grouse and a variety of wetland species. By reducing the likelihood of large landscape-scale wildfires, the project will improve public and firefighter safety. The BLM is working on the initiative with FWS, NPS and U.S. Forest Service. Other partners include counties, state agencies, and organizations.
- Valles Caldera ($1,029,616) – Located in New Mexico, the project is expected to improve the ability of ecosystems to recover from wildfires and other natural disturbance events, in order to sustain healthy forests and watersheds for future generations. The NPS is carrying out the work with partners that include the U.S. Forest Service, New Mexico State Forestry, The Nature Conservancy, Jemez and Santa Clara Pueblo, universities, Amy Biehl High School, and other organizations.