Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces National Forest Stimulus Projects To Protect Public From Wildland Fires
In Meeting with Firefighters, Vilsack Discusses Local Job Creation
WASHINGTON.— In an address to the International Association of Firefighters today, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced several projects for wildland fire protection and removal of hazardous fuels that will begin immediately. These USDA projects, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), will create thousands of jobs in California, Colorado, Florida, and Oregon.
“President Obama is delivering on his promise to the American people to create jobs,” said Vilsack. “These private sector jobs will increase forest restoration and decrease the size and intensity of wildland fires. Providing healthy forests puts men and women to work and makes communities safer and healthier.”
USDA received approximately $33 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to fund wildland fire management projects and the removal of hazardous fuels. Projects funded by the Recovery Act also will assist with technology that converts wood to energy. Wood bioenergy, derived from the fiber of removed hazardous fuels, has become a cost-effective energy source. The use of economic recovery funds for this effort will be an investment in America’s future.
USDA anticipates creating 25,000 new jobs over the next two years on projects relating to land stewardship and watershed restoration, green infrastructure repair and in the production of energy from wood. Many of the most affected communities of the economic downturn are located near national forests. Rural jobs are being created on millions of acres in need of restoration work so that money can flow into local communities.
The following projects are being implemented immediately:
* In California, $1.5 million of Recovery Act funding will create jobs across Northern California. The project work will include fuel reduction work near communities, Forest Service recreation facilities, and access routes and will also maintain facilities to reduce deferred maintenance while making crews available for fires suppression when needed.
* In Colorado, $5 million of Recovery Act funding has been targeted to remove dead trees along 150 miles of roadsides affected by the large-scale mountain pine beetle infestation. In addition, fire prevention projects to remove hazardous fuels around private property and communities-at-risk and critical municipal watersheds serving Denver and the Front Range are underway.
* In Florida, a state-wide hazardous fuels reduction program and a public safety and educational campaign are underway because of Recovery Act funding. Not only will this reduce threat to communities at risk from wildfire, but it also provides protection to the large number of vacant and foreclosed property around the state. Direct stimulus through contracts, services, supplies and salaries will help the hard-hit economy throughout the state.
* In Oregon, initial wildland fire management projects totaling $16.5 million have been identified. Many of these projects are associated with the Youth Employment Initiative and will offer work that supports natural resource management and conservation education.
Announcements of additional Forest Service projects funded by the Recovery Act are expected in the coming weeks. More information about USDA’s efforts regarding the Recovery Act is available at www.usda.gov/recovery. More information about the Federal government’s efforts on the economic stimulus is available at www.recovery.gov .
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