On August 29, 2023, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service announced that it will invest $16.2 million to restore forests across tribal, state and private lands.
Despite its name, the U.S. Forest Service has traditionally focused almost exclusively on maintaining fire- and disease-prone commercial monoculture tree farms, rather than healthy, resilient, biodiverse forests. This agricultural mindset is a direct result of being part of the USDA.
This new announcement is a significant step in the right direction, as these funded projects mark the first time the Forest Service will make Landscape Scale Restoration program grants directly available to federally recognized Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations to restore priority forest landscapes on tribal lands, including trust lands, reservation lands, and other lands owned by tribes.
“The Landscape Scale Restoration program is an important way we work with communities across all lands,” said Forest Service Deputy Chief for State, Private, and Tribal Forestry Jaelith Hall-Rivera.
“This year, the Landscape Scale Restoration program is directly supporting Tribes to improve health and resilience of tribal lands. Making this program directly available to Tribes to restore tribal trust lands is an important step in honoring our commitment to strengthening our nation-to-nation relationships,” she continued.
The Forest Service selected 64 proposed projects for fiscal year 2023 to help Tribes, state agencies, local governments, and partners restore healthy, resilient, climate-adapted forests, including $3 million to restore landscapes on tribal lands.
“Threats to forests like wildfires, insects, and disease do not stop at jurisdictional boundaries, which is why these investments in healthy and resilient forests extend beyond boundary lines,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore.
“These grants are critical for improving the nation’s forests that provide a range of environmental, social, and economic benefits to the American people,” he added.
The Landscape Scale Restoration program also supports Forest Service 10-year strategy to protect communities from catastrophic wildfire.
The Forest Service reviewed project requests from federally recognized Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations, and selected 11 projects for funding:
- Kuskokwim Corporation for the Kuskokwim Climate Resilient Forestry and Harvest program, Alaska – $295,200
- Kenaitze Indian Tribe for the land improvement and supportive services, Alaska – $300,000
- Seneca Nation of Indians for Ode:ka’ for creating biodiversity through indigenous methods of prescribed fire, New York – $300,000
- Pueblo of Isleta for Isleta East Mountains fuels reduction, New Mexico – $277,076
- White Mountain Apache Tribe Mount Baldy fuels reduction, Arizona – $300,000
- Coeur d’Alene Tribe Hangman Creek Watershed Restoration, Idaho – $298,466
- Hoopa Valley Tribe hazardous fuels reduction, California – $298,466
- Kalispel Tribe of Indians for improved forest management through biochar air curtain burners, Washington – $122,434
- Pechanga Band of Indians restoration of goldspotted oak borer-affected coast live oaks on the Pechanga Reservation, California – $298,846
- Yurok Tribe for a forest inventory project on the Yurok Reservation – $299,190
- Redwood Valley Rancheria Little River Band of Pomo Indians for landscape-scale restoration, California – $208,788
Along with funding to Tribes, $13.2 million is being invested in 53 landscape-scale projects through three non-profits representing state forestry organizations.
Examples include projects to reduce wildfire risk across the West, restore longleaf pine in the Southeast, and combat invasive species and restoring water quality in the Northeast and Midwest.
Photo (courtesy of USDA Forest Service / Preston Keres) shows the West Virginia landscape from atop the highest point in the state: Spruce Knob mountain.