(BEDFORD) – The USDA Forest Service’s Eastern Region has reduced the buildup of hazardous fuels on over 237,000 acres of forest lands this season, making it the most successful year on record. This amount includes nearly 40,000 acres completed by states through the State Fire Assistance program. Most of these treatments focused on reducing wildfire risk where communities meet the forest.
In Indiana, the Hoosier National Forest had a record year for prescribed burns. The forest burned about 18 units with a total of about 5,300 acres. Many different staff members were involved in some capacity, whether it was conducting the burn, preparing for it or communicating about it. In addition, the forest partnered with The Nature Conservancy to assist with burns on their land, and their staff assisted with several burns on National Forest System lands.
The reduction of hazardous fuel is a critical step in reducing the risk of wildfire and improving forest health. Healthy forests are better at storing and slowly releasing some of the highest-quality surface water in the country, which millions of Americans rely on. Forest health improvement work is also critical in improving wildlife habitat, preventing and slowing insect and disease outbreaks, and controlling the spread of nonnative invasive plants. This work furthers the productive and sustainable use of national forest system lands and helps support rural prosperity and economic development.
“Through strong partnerships with the states, tribes, Job Corps, AmeriCorps, federal partners, and nonprofits, we have treated a record number of acres this year,” said Robert Lueckel, Acting Regional Forester. “With a commitment to shared stewardship, we will continue to work with our partners across boundaries to improve forest health throughout the region.”
To build on this success in 2020, the Eastern Region is currently accepting applications for the Cohesive Fire Strategy grant program with grants ranging from $25,000 -$150,000. In 2019, the region awarded $2 million in wildfire risk reduction grants, benefiting 16 states.
For more information on the Cohesive Fire Strategy grant program including eligibility and qualifying projects, please visit: www.fs.usda.gov/naspf/working-with-us/grants/cohesive-fire-strategy-request-proposals