For the second year in a row annual results from a new forest restoration program reveal that pre-emptive thinning and controlled burning in forests are cheaper and safer than fighting emergency wildfires.
As large megafires continue to burn today in the West, the U.S. Forest Service released impressive 2011 results from the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLR). This program brings together local forest workers, sawmill owners, conservationists, businesses, sportsmen, and outdoor recreationists to collaboratively address forest health concerns on Forest Service lands near their communities.
Actions at the 10 participating CFLR landscapes in 2011 resulted in:
• 3,374 full and part-time jobs created and maintained;
• Reduced risk of megafire on 123,016 acres;
• 121 million board feet of lumber generated;
• 300 square miles of improved wildlife habitat;
• $21 million generated for local business payrolls;
• 267,890 tons of woody bio-mass for energy production;
• 50 miles of eroding forest roads decommissioned;
• 11,393 acres of noxious weeds managed;
• 38 miles of fish habitat restored;
• 81 miles of road improved.
This work was achieved with an investment of $25 million. By comparison, the single 87,284 acre High Park megafire outside Fort Collins this year killed one person, destroyed 257 homes, and cost more than $38 million to contain. Meanwhile 4 million acres have burned elsewhere in the country.
All told the Forest Service spends approximately a quarter of its $5 billion 2011 budget fighting emergency fires, with 157 firefighter fatalities since 2003.
CFLR is also a political success with bipartisan support in Washington— for the second year running the House Appropriations Committee has proposed maintaining funding CFLR at the $40 million level in FY 2013. This funding will support the 23 landscape projects started in 2010 and 2012.
“This program provides a constructive and positive approach to conducting forest restoration at a landscape scale,” said Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “CFLRP is helping us achieve on-the-ground, large-scale restoration projects to improve forest health and reduce fire risk. The program also is benefitting local economies by creating jobs and a supply of wood materials. Healthier forests and communities have resulted.”
Observers say the program is bucking the larger downward funding trend because restoration of National Forests is the new “zone of agreement” where traditional adversaries in the timber industry, conservation, and local county governments are working to advance common goals. In addition to thinning and fuel reduction, the program creates jobs by providing significant funding for watershed restoration, fish and wildlife habitat improvements, and weed control activities. This new cooperative attitude links forest jobs to forest health and Western Congressional representatives are crossing party lines and support it.
National and local partners heralded these 2011 results.
“This program proves there is a safer and cheaper way to reduce the risk of megafires and improve the health of our forests,” said Laura McCarthy of The Nature Conservancy. “We can do something to reduce the real harm these megafires are bringing to our people, water, and wildlife.”
“Forests offer more than aesthetic value alone,” added Rebecca Turner of American Forests. “They cover a third of the United States; store and filter half the nation’s water supply; provide jobs to more than a million wood-products workers; offer wood products and energy to consumers; absorb nearly 20 percent of U.S. carbon emissions; offer 650 million acres of recreational lands that generate more than $15 billion in economic activity annually; and provide habitat for thousands of species across the country.”
“CFLR projects are cost efficient, mostly because of their long time frame and larger scale,” added Scott Brennan of The Wilderness Society. “Selected projects are assured 10 years of funding as long as appropriations are available, which provided certainty for businesses their banks and other investors, time for workers to be trained and become skilled, and for product markets to be developed and expanded.
Maia Enzer of Sustainable Northwest said, “CFLR is about boots on the ground, creating jobs in rural communities. Now is the time to invest in rural communities and restore the health of our National Forests. CFLR does exactly that.”
“The CFLR program works because it allows for the development of innovative solutions to complicated forest and wildlife conservation problems,” added Peter Nelson of Defenders of Wildlife. “In California’s Sierra national forest, the Dinkey Landscape Restoration Project is successfully moving forward with projects that restore forest resiliency while conserving sensitive wildlife such as the pacific fisher. These restoration projects are grounded in science and built to encourage learning, two essential ingredients to long term conservation success.”
The ten CFLR sites from 2011 were:
1. Four Forest Restoration Initiative, Arizona ($4 million)
2. Dinkey Landscape Restoration Project, California ($482,000)
3. Front Range Landscape Restoration Initiative, Colorado ($4 million)
4. Uncompahgre Plateau, Colorado ($1.07 million)
5. Accelerating Longleaf Pine Restoration, Florida ($1.465 million)
6. Selway-Middle Fork Clearwater, Idaho ($3.932 million)
7. Southwestern Crown of the Continent, Montana ($4 million)
8. Southwest Jemez Mountains, New Mexico ($2.747 million)
9. Deschutes Collaborative Forest, Oregon ($832,000)
10. Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative, Washington ($2.467 million)
The thirteen additional sites added to CFLR in early 2012 are:
1. Ozark Highlands Ecosystem Restoration, Arkansas
2. Shortleaf-Bluestem Community Project, Arkansas and Oklahoma
3. Amador-Calaveras Consensus Group Cornerstone Project, California
4. Burney-Hat Creek Basins Project, California
5. Kootenai Valley Resource Initiative, Idaho
6. Weiser-Little Salmon Headwaters Project, Idaho
7. Longleaf Pine Ecosystem Restoration and Hazardous Fuels Reduction, De Soto National Forest, National Forests in Mississippi
8. Pine-Oak Woodlands Restoration Project, Missouri
9. Zuni Mountain Project, New Mexico
10. Grandfather Restoration Project, North Carolina
11. Southern Blues Restoration Coalition, Oregon
12. Lakeview Stewardship Project, Oregon
13. Northeast Washington Forest Vision 2020, Washington
A century of suppressing natural wildfires has resulted in unhealthy forests choked with small trees and brush that can lead to destructive mega-fires. The Nature Conservancy estimates 120 million acres of America’s forests – an area bigger than the state of California and Colorado combined – are in immediate need of restoration due to this “perfect storm” of threats.
The CFLR Coalition is comprised of 144 member organizations that include private businesses, communities, counties, tribes, water suppliers, associations, and non-governmental organizations.
Information on CFLR and reports from the individual landscapes can be found at the U.S. Forest Service’s website: http://www.fs.fed.us/restoration/CFLR/
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
The Nature Conservancy