The Omnibus Public Lands Act, passed by Congress today, includes a key piece of legislation that could bring much-needed aid to Washington’s East Cascade forests.
The Forest Landscape Restoration Program (FLRP) will provide new authority and up to $40 million in funding annually to manage forests across the United States to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.
This federal program could bring new money and resources to the East Cascades forests to restore forest health. In this region, as across much of the west, the forests are overgrown and choked with vegetation as a result of past land management practices and fire exclusion. Removing the build up of small trees, based on ecological principles, helps reduce the excess vegetation that fuels unnaturally severe fire and creates the spaces that native trees need to grow and thrive.
The Nature Conservancy has been working in the East Cascades to restore the forests, and led the creation of the Tapash Sustainable Forests Collaborative three years ago to enable major landowners to work collaboratively across some 2 million acres. The Tapash Collaborative is an example of the kind of project the FLRP was designed to support.
"Our East Cascade forests are in urgent need of large-scale restoration, and many of the key elements are in place to make this happen. We need the funding and the long-term commitment that this program will provide," said Karen Anderson, Washington state director for The Nature Conservancy.
Landowners in the Tapash Collaborative include The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Forest Service, the Yakama Nation, and Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Department of Natural Resources. They are working together to reduce the likelihood of catastrophic wildfire, and to develop a business model for using the wood that’s removed from the forest. These partners are developing the science and economic basis for restoring the forest to health while also ensuring the people who live, work and play in this region can thrive.
If the East Cascade forests are selected for funding under the FLRP, the investment in 10 years of consistent thinning and controlled burning could draw much needed private capital to the area, stimulating local wood processing industries and creating new jobs, including power generation from woody biomass.
The FLRP will establish a Priority Landscapes Initiative Fund of up to $40 million annually, available on a competitive basis, for about 10 landscape-scale treatments to reduce fuels on National Forest and Department of Interior agency lands for up to 10 years. Sites will be selected based on ecological need. Funded projects will be required to develop plans through a collaborative process that includes all key stakeholders.
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.
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