U.S. Forest Service Distributes $52.2 Million to Safeguard Working Forests

WASHINGTON, DC, January 19, 2012 (ENS) – The U.S. Forest Service is distributing $52.2 million in grants for 17 conservation and working lands projects across the United States this year.

The two largest grants, $7 million each. go to projects on opposite coasts.

In California, $7 million goes to the Eel River project, part of a larger conservation effort that consists of eight ranches in northern California. This phase will protect more than 15,000 acres and will encourage sustainable forestry, ranching, and hunting and provide critical Tule-elk habitat in perpetuity. These conserved lands are adjacent to Mendocino National Forest and public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Hiker explores Maine’s Crocker Mountain area (Photo by Bucket&Water)

In Maine, $7 million goes to the High Peaks – Crocker Mountain project to protect 11,798 acres of productive forestland in the High Peaks of western Maine. The protected area is adjacent to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the U.S. Navy’s Redington Survival School Base, Penobscot Indian Nation lands and three state conservation parcels.

Protection of this property will result in a connected landscape of conservation lands 77,000 acres in size. This project, as well as the High-Peaks Orbeton Stream project and the Androscoggin Headwaters project, is located within an America’s Great Outdoors demonstration landscape designed to highlight landscape-scale conservation partnerships.

The Androscoggin Headwaters project along the Maine/New Hampshire border will receive a $5 million grant to protect more than 12,000 acres of important forestland in the headwaters of the Androscoggin River. This project complements conservation actions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge and the America’s Great Outdoors landscape-scale conservation partnership initiative.

“The Forest Legacy Program helps keep working forests working across the country,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “These projects will support rural economies and American jobs while protecting some of our most beautiful landscapes for our children and grandchildren.”

A $6.5 million grant goes to Montana’s Stimson Forestland project to permanently protect, through a conservation easement, 28,000 acres of productive timberland near Troy. The project area contains some of the best wildlife habitat in Montana, supporting eight federally listed or candidate threatened or endangered species and numerous other rare, sensitive and game species and is an America’s Great Outdoors priority landscape-scale conservation partnership.

In Kentucky, a $5.1 million grant goes to the Big River Corridor project to protect 4,285 acres of forests at the confluence of the Ohio and Tradewater Rivers. The project provides water quality protection; endangered, threatened, and rare species recovery and protection; public recreational access on nationally recognized hunting land; preservation of existing cultural and geological treasures; and permanent protection from likely agricultural development.

Two $4 million grants were awarded in this round.

In Utah, the Green Canyon project is 5,690 acres in Northern Utah adjacent to the Uintah-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Located above the towns of Hyrum and Paradise, this property will help protect the drinking water for both communities. The family landowner will be able to continue to use the property for timber harvests, ranching and recreation, while the project protects critical winter range for mule deer and elk and year-round habitat for the Columbia sharp-tailed grouse, a state sensitive species.

In Arkansas, the Maumelle Water Excellence project, just 14 miles from the state capital, protects forests along four miles of the Big Maumelle River, which supplies drinking water for the Little Rock metropolitan area.

A $3 million grant goes to Idaho’s Boundary Connections project to protect 1,700 acres of private timberlands under imminent threat of development. The protected area provides a critical connection for wildlife between the vast Selkirk, Purcell and Cabinet Mountains of Idaho. These lands include important habitat for five threatened and endangered species, over two dozen species designated as greatest conservation need and six rare plants.

Hawaii’s Kukaiau Koa Forest project is located on a portion of the Kukaiau Ranch on the North slope of Mauna Kea, on the Big Island. It will protect, through conservation easement, a working ranch that is actively restoring degraded forests to a sustainable forestry operation with native koa and ohia trees. The area is home to many species of native birds, several of which are federally listed endangered species.

Smaller grants will go to: Maine’s High Peaks-Orbeton Stream project to help protect 5,800 acres of critical habitat for the endangered Atlantic salmon, and other projects in: Florida, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Jersey, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming.

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