A major U.S. Forest Service pilot program treated some 800,000 acres of federal forestland to help protect them from catastrophic wildfire in 2012, and improved the condition of three major watersheds in the interior West.
The Integrated Resource Restoration program exceeded or met its goals in almost every performance category, decommissioning 738 miles of roads, enhancing 933 miles of stream habitat and resulting in the sale of more than 850,000 cubic board feet of timber.
“Integrated Resource Restoration allows us to be more efficient and strategic in how we manage our forests and grasslands,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “We see this program as a model for good management.”
Under the program, landscape-level projects that would otherwise be piecemealed together over many years were funded in a single year with a single budget, providing program managers the flexibility to prioritize restoration projects.
This prioritization simplified budget planning and eased the identification of goals and priorities. Program managers, instead of competing for individual program funds to pay for specific projects, are now looking for opportunities to integrate multiple restoration projects and priorities. The Integrated Resource Restoration program fits into the larger nation-wide restoration work of the U.S. Forest Service, which led the restoration of more than 4 million acres of forestland in 2012.
The improvement of watersheds will continue to be a priority for the agency. In a report issued in January, Forest Service researchers predicted that water resources will grow scarcer in coming decades–especially in the western states–as pressures such as climate change, encroachment, and increased demand continue to impact the nation’s forests.
The Integrated Resource Restoration program improved the condition of the Pass Creek watershed on the Gallatin National Forest in Montana, the Waw’ aalamnime Creek watershed on the Clearwater National Forest in Idaho, and the Bull Creek watershed on the Boise National Forest, also in Idaho.
The mission of the Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Forest Service lands contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $27 billion per year.