GAINESVILLE, Fla., Jan. 16, 2018 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest nearly $32 million this year to mitigate wildfire risk, improve water quality and restore healthy forest ecosystems in 24 states and Puerto Rico. More than $400,000 of that funding will support the Ocala National Forest in Florida.
The Ocala Longleaf Priority Protection Area project will restore longleaf pine and create habitat for the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker on the Ocala National Forest. It also lays the groundwork for reintroducing longleaf pine on public and private lands to the south. Partners will implement conservation practices to accelerate forest restoration at a landscape-scale, reducing wildfire risk, increasing appropriate understory vegetation and pollinator habitat, controlling non-native and invasive species, and protecting water quality.
Partners include USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), US Forest Service (USFS), The Nature Conservancy, The National Forest Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Federation. The total funding for fiscal year 2018 is $437,080, with NRCS contributing $181,080 and the USFS investing $256,000.
Since 2013, USDA has invested $176 million in 56 Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership projects, which focuses on areas where public forests and grasslands intersect with privately-owned lands.
“Through Joint Chiefs, the Natural Resources Conservation Service works with agricultural producers and forest landowners to improve forest health using available Farm Bill conservation programs, and the Forest Service enhances forest health on public lands — stitching together a larger footprint of healthy ecosystems in priority areas,” said Florida State Conservationist Russell Morgan.
Private woodland owners in the project areas may be eligible for financial assistance from NRCS to help them perform forest conservation practices on their land. Contact a local USDA Service Center to learn more. All project summaries and funding tables can be found on our Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership webpage.