Funding will protect communities from wildfires, improve drinking water and restore forests

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest more than $41 million this fiscal year through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership for projects that mitigate wildfire risk, improve water quality and restore healthy forest ecosystems on public and private lands. Funding for 36 projects includes $10.6 million for 16 new projects and $30.5 million to complete work on 20 projects previously selected in 2018 and 2019.

Through the projects, USDA’s Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service are working hand-in-hand with agricultural producers, forest landowners and National Forest System lands to improve forest health using available Farm Bill conservation programs and other authorities.

USDA has invested more than $225 million over seven years to Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership projects, which focus on areas where public forests and grasslands intersect with privately-owned lands.

“This partnership has a strong history of accomplishing critical management work across boundaries,” said FS Chief Vicki Christiansen. “The collaborative approach exemplifies USDA’s shared stewardship model of working with our federal, state and local partners to springboard high-priority restoration work.”

The Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership allows NRCS and FS to collaborate with agricultural producers and forest landowners to invest in conservation and restoration at a big enough scale to make a difference. Working in partnership, and at this scale, helps reduce wildfire threats, protect water quality and supply, and improve wildlife habitat for at-risk species.

“This partnership has become a catalyst for turning discussions about restoration among a variety of groups into on-the-ground implementation,” said NRCS Chief Matt Lohr. “The selected projects are scientifically strong and allow us to work seamlessly across public and private lands to deliver positive outcomes for wildlife, landowners and entire communities.”

About the projects

The new projects within the High Plains Journal readership area include:

  • Arkansas: Building Resilient Watersheds to Improve Drinking Water in the Ozark & Ouachita Highlands;

  • Missouri: Central Ozark Glade, Woodland, and Native Diversity Restoration Project;

  • Montana: Castle Mountains Restoration Project;

  • Nebraska: Nebraska Northwest Landscape Restoration II; and

  • New Mexico: Greater Santa Fe Fireshed.

Through the new three-year projects, landowners will work with local USDA experts and partners to apply targeted forestry management practices on their land, such as thinning, hazardous fuel treatments, fire breaks and other systems to meet unique forestry challenges in their area.

Successful partnerships

This year’s selections bring the total number of Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration projects to 85. Since 2014, these projects have delivered important forest and rangeland funding to 40 states and Puerto Rico.

A partnership that has demonstrated success over the past few years is the Arizona Prescott Basin Cross Boundary Project which netted extraordinary benefits on private lands. This project helped protect 28,000 homes for more than 53,000 residents from wildfires, implemented land management strategies on 8,600 acres of public and private land, and improved critical habitat for the Mexican Spotted Owl.

Similarly, the West Virginia Restoration Venture reduced wildfire risk by removing hazardous fuels using controlled burns on 962 acres of oak hickory forests. This project also improved water quality by establishing cover along 56 miles of stream, restored natural hydraulic processes by connecting 49 miles of stream, and planted 80,000 seedlings to enhance habitat for the threatened Cheat Mountain salamander, West Virginia northern flying squirrel, and snowshoe hare.

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For full project descriptions and information on completed projects, visit the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership website.

Ag producers and forest landowners interested in a project to mitigate wildfire risk should contact their local USDA service center to learn if their land is eligible. More information is available online at