Creating jobs, restoring our forests' health and engaging local communities are key to what we do and who we are. These goals were underscored recently by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's announcement of $40 million nationally for 20 forest and watershed restoration projects.

On the Malheur National Forest, the Southern Blues Restoration Coalition will receive $2.5 million to treat 27,000 acres this year.

Overall, more than $7 million is coming to Pacific Northwest forests to help accomplish high-priority, landscape-scale restoration. That money will create family-wage jobs while making our forests better for future generations. The best part is that the projects were proposed by local communities.

It should come as no surprise that when communities work together toward a common-sense approach to forest management, good things happen.

Secretary Vilsack announced not only a series of grants, but a new approach that will accelerate restoration of forest health.

"Through our partnerships with states, communities, tribes and others, we are committed to restoring our forests and bringing jobs to rural America," Vilsack said. "Whether the threat comes from wildfire, bark beetles or a changing climate, it is vital that we step up our efforts to safeguard our country's natural resources."

This accelerated restoration effort is designed to expand the number of forest acres treated by 20 percent over the next three years. That means keeping communities safe by reducing brush and small trees that contribute to wildfires, increasing timber harvests, helping fish by restoring streams with new and better culverts and invigorating our forests through a variety of other tools.

Restoration of our national forests, such as the Malheur, is critical. These lands face threats from wildfire, climate change, beetle epidemics and invasive species. It's imperative that our national forests be healthy, productive and sustainable neighbors to our rural communities. Our restoration program is designed to sustain the ability of these lands to continue to deliver a full range of benefits for generations to come.

The Forest Service will increase restoration activities with a series of actions, some of which are already under way. The list includes: expanding collaborative landscape partnerships; finalizing and implementing a new forest planning rule; implementing the Watershed Condition Framework; improving efficiencies of the planning process for restoration projects under the National Environmental Policy Act; implementing the agency's bark beetle strategy; improving the implementation and efficiencies of timber and stewardship contracts; and expanding markets for forest products.

This accelerated restoration effort is good for our forests, good for our local communities and, in the words of our first Chief Gifford Pinchot, provides the greatest good for the greatest number in the long run.

Kent Connaughton is Regional Forester for the Pacific Northwest Region (Oregon and Washington) of the U.S. Forest Service.


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