Local forest lands receive wildfire treatment funding

Courtesy photo As part of its wildfire strategy, the U.S. Forest Service recently announced funding to treat 11 areas including the Tonto National Forest and San Carlos Apache Reservation.

The San Carlos Apache Tribe, it was announced this month, will be working with several partners to implement wildfire protection measures on three million acres of forest. The area, which includes land on both the San Carlos Reservation and three national forests – Apache-Sitgreaves, Coronado and Tonto – was one of 11 new Western landscapes selected for treatment under the U.S. Forest Service’s wildfire strategy. The project received approximately $32 million in funding through the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the additional 11 areas (10 others were previously approved and funded via the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) on January 19. A Department of Agriculture press release said they were chosen “based on the potential for wildfire to affect nearby communities and buildings, with a focus on protecting underserved communities, critical infrastructure, public water sources and Tribal lands.” The agency also fielded more than 3,000 comments in 11 roundtable meetings held in the first half of 2022.

A project description issued by the Forest Service said that, for cross-boundary landscape restoration, they will work with the San Carlos Apache Tribe to build on two Tribal Forest Protection Act projects. “Working cooperatively with  the Tribe and various partners, we will use contracts and other partnership agreements during initial hiring and training and on-the-ground fuels treatments and survey work,” the Forest Service wrote.

“The San Carlos Apache Tribe will work in partnership with Tonto National Forest, Coronado National Forest and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest to better manage our forests with our Apache knowledge of maintaining our natural resources,” Tribal Chairman Terry Rambler said on social media. “This is a great opportunity for better management of our forests, to share our Apache knowledge, workforce  development and economic opportunities.”

The Forest Service anticipates completing 87,000 acres of wildfire treatments between fiscal years 2023 and 2027. The Tribe will be hiring during the first two years. “These new positions will add to the overall capacity to collaborate [on], develop and implement projects across the landscape,” wrote the Forest Service.

This project, according to the Forest Service, promises to lessen wildfire exposure to communities on the San Carlos and Fort Apache Reservations and to “reintroduce wildland fire into fire-adapted ecosystems in a culturally sensitive way while emphasizing sustainable uses of cultural forest products.”

In addition to the Tribe, project partners include the National Forest Foundation, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Mule Deer Foundation, Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, and Salt River Project.


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