ALASKA – A newly signed challenge cost-share agreement will carry one of the Forest Service Alaska Region's most innovative partnership programs, the Alaska Forest Fund, into the future.
The partnership is between the Alaska Region and the National Forest Foundation, the Congressionally chartered nonprofit of the Forest Service that works to engage Americans in promoting the health and public enjoyment of our national forests. The Alaska Forest Fund is designed to expand public-private partnerships with Alaska's national forests – the Tongass and the Chugach.
The program, which was created in 2016, uses a dollar for dollar funding match to support projects that are unique to Alaska. The partnership leverages Forest Service investments with private funding from the National Forest Foundation to complete projects. It was developed when the region acknowledged that due to a steady decline in appropriated funds for recreation-related projects, the Region needed to engage partners and Alaskan stakeholders to find ways to support the high priority work that we all value.
Specifically, the identified need was for projects involving Forest Service cabins, trails, and other public facilities on the national forests, as well as tribal youth engagement and workforce development in our rural communities. What started out as $100,000 in Forest Service funding, now equals nearly a $2 million investment in projects paid for with partnership dollars.
Funding partners include corporations, foundations, and individuals, and the funds are provided to community-based partners to complete high-priority projects that support forest health and outdoor experiences. In some cases, the funds support local contractors that work with the Forest Service to complete important technical projects.
"We want to maximize tax payer dollars with resources provided by partners who care about what our customers and national forest users care about as well," said Alaska Regional Forester Dave Schmid. "We know we can't do it alone and we are thankful for the National Forest Foundation and funding partners who share in the stewardship of our Alaska national forests."
Alaska has a 3.9 billion tourist economy, hosting 2 million visitors every year, and supporting over 14,000 jobs in Southeast Alaska alone. The demand for sustainable recreation continues to grow in Alaska and thanks to a grant provided to the National Forest Foundation by the Rasmuson Foundation, there are currently ten cabins slated for restoration between 2019-2021. Four are located on the Chugach and six on the Tongass. This three-year program of work is worth $600,000 and could not have been accomplished without their support. It is thanks to the Alaska Forest Fund and shared stewardship that the collaborative work continues.