Washington Scene – February/March 2023

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USDA Forest Service Announces $20.5 Million In Grants To Protect Water, Increase Wood Processing Capacity

The USDA Forest Service, in Washington, DC, announced toward the end of 2022 a total of $20.5 million in grants to help states or federally recognized tribes establish temporary bridge programs to protect water resources during forest-related operations and to assist wood processing facility owners to establish, reopen, retrofit, or expand. The grants are focused on sawmills or other wood processing facilities that purchase and process byproducts from forest restoration activities in areas of severe fire risk and insect or disease infestation. 

The funds, made available by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, support the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s efforts to ensure tribes and historically marginalized or underserved communities receive equal access and opportunities to funding and programs, and to support community efforts vital to forest health. This funding opportunity also follows through on President Biden’s Executive Order directing USDA to scale up rural economic development and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s direction to the Forest Service to find new ways to use byproducts from landscape improvement and wildfire mitigation projects to enhance carbon sequestration while creating jobs and economic opportunities.

The $20.5 million being committed includes:

•$12.5 million targeted as financial assistance for owners of facilities that purchase and process byproducts from forest restoration projects including thinning, wildfire resilience activities and habitat management. Owners must identify how their work will use byproducts from areas of high or very high risk of severe wildfire or insect and disease infestation based on the high priority firesheds identified in the Forest Service 10-year Wildfire Crisis Strategy or by using the Wildfire Risk to Communities and National Insect and Disease Risk maps. 

•$8 million is available to states and tribes to support the establishment of temporary bridge rental, loan or cost-share programs to protect water resources and reduce water quality degradation during forest-related operations. The funding is to help states and tribes create a program that provides portable skidder bridges, bridge mats or other temporary water crossing structures to loggers and others working in forest areas. These bridges will minimize damage from trucks and other equipment in forested areas, especially sensitive wetlands.

More information about these funding opportunities is available at Forest Service and on Grants.gov. 

USDA Forest Service Signs 11 New Agreements To Advance Tribal Co-Stewardship Of National Forests

Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service in Washington, DC, announced that it has signed 11 co-stewardship agreements with 13 tribes as part of the agency’s commitment to protect tribal interests in the lands they value as part of their culture and history. These agreements come in response to Joint Secretarial Order 3403, which directs agencies under the USDA and the Department of the Interior to ensure their decisions and activities on public lands fulfill the unique trust obligation with federally recognized Tribes and their citizens.

In addition to the 11 co-stewardship agreements, there are 60 more in various stages of review involving 45 Tribes.

Federally recognized Tribes are sovereign nations with long-standing government-to-government relationships with the federal government. Tribal co-stewardship agreements like those being announced promote an approach to managing national forests and grasslands that seeks to protect the treaty, religious, subsistence and cultural interests of federally recognized Indian Tribes. The agreements reflect a wide array of tribal interests and include caring for forest and watershed health, restoring fire-adapted ecosystems, integrating traditional knowledge into land management decision-making, and protecting cultural resources, treaty rights, wildlife habitat, food sovereignty and ceremonial and traditional activities.

“These agreements demonstrate our commitment to working together with Federally recognized Tribes,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “We are at a unique moment in time where we can make a positive difference in the relationships between the federal government and Tribal Nations across the country. We do this by building trust and demonstrating our commitment to uphold our trust and treaty responsibilities to Indian Tribes with concrete actions. We’ve made a lot of good progress already, and we will continue to embed this commitment within our agency and organizational culture.”

The Forest Service is entrusted with managing more than 193 million acres of land and waters that are the traditional territory previously managed by Tribes for thousands of years. These lands are home to sacred religious and burial sites, wildlife, and other sources of indigenous foods and medicines. Much of these lands are in areas where Tribes have reserved rights to hunt, fish, gather and practice their traditional ceremonies based on ratified treaties and agreements with the federal government.

In fiscal year 2022, Forest Service invested nearly $20 million in co-stewardship.

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By Miller Wood Trade Publications

The premier online information source for the forest products industry since 1927.

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