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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

USDA selects Arizona forests restoration project

Will create jobs with minimal federal dollars

PRESCOTT, AZ – In a major step forward for a critical low-cost job creation effort in Greater Arizona, Representative Ann Kirkpatrick announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has selected the Four Forests Restoration Initiative as a Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration project.

This significant recognition will bring resources and support from the USDA to enable stakeholders in this unique public-private partnership to begin the detailed planning phase for full implementation. Rep. Kirkpatrick has been working with the timber industry, conservationists, the Forest Service and local communities from across District One to create this unprecedented opportunity to reverse a century of forest mismanagement while strengthening rural economies at low cost to the taxpayer.

The project will create over 600 jobs and begin the process of restoring 2.4 million acres of forest land—revitalizing the region’s timber industry, greatly reducing the threat of wildfires and preserving the environment. In May, the Congresswoman sent a letter to the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service Tom Tidwell in support of the coalition, urging him to consider the Four Forests Restoration Initiative for the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program.

Applicants from only nine states were selected for this honor, demonstrating once again Rep. Kirkpatrick’s hard work is bearing fruit for the residents of her district.

“The Department of Agriculture’s recognition of the Four Forests Restoration Initiative is a new milestone in our efforts and will allow us to lay the foundation for this critical job creation project,” said Rep. Kirkpatrick. “On the heels of wildfire season, the need for this effort is clearer than ever. It will help us move closer to both safeguarding our communities and reversing the economic downturn in our region.”

Congresswoman Kirkpatrick has led the way in pushing to make the Four Forests Restoration Initiative a priority for the federal government. In addition to the letter of support, she brought Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to the district in late January to review the project and visit with stakeholders.

Afterwards, Rep. Kirkpatrick continued the work she began with the Secretary by inviting the USDA’s Senior Advisor for Environment and Climate Robert Bonnie and the Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Harris Sherman, who oversees the U.S. Forest Service, to District One in June to address potential roadblocks and outline the process for making this project a reality.

“Selection as a Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration project will move the Four Forests Restoration Initiative that much closer to implementation,” said Rep. Kirkpatrick. “This is the major step toward realizing Greater Arizona’s potential and tapping our abundant natural resources to the benefit of local communities. “It is a sign that our work with stakeholders and local communities is paying off, and Washington is finally listening to our calls to find cost-efficient ways to get District One families back to work.”

The Four Forests Restoration Initiative will affect national forest lands across Greater Arizona, allowing restoration of up to 50,000 acres per year and creating jobs using federal action with only a minimal investment of federal dollars. As a Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration project, the initiative will receive $2 million from the USDA to begin the planning process on an accelerated timeline.

Once implemented, forest restoration will bring an estimated $170 million worth of economic benefits to the surrounding areas through the sale of wood products. This unique partnership between environmental and business interests could be a model for future proposals.

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