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Conserving healthy forest benefits in the Ozarks in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service

The Joint Chiefs Restoration Program is a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) that funds landscape restoration projects across public and private lands with a high potential for positive environmental outcomes. Beginning in 2014, the Western Arkansas Woodland Restoration Program received three years of funding ($3.6 million FS, $5.6 million NRCS) to increase and improve the substantial ecosystem services benefits provided to communities adjacent to the Ouachita and Ozark-St. Francis National Forests. The projects included activities to: 1) control erosion to improve water quality for two threatened and one endangered species of mussels, and to protect 464 active public water sources; 2) improve wildlife habitat for important pollinators like the endangered Indiana bat; and 3) buffer the severity and risk of catastrophic wildfire. Benefits like clean water, pollination, and fire protection should not be taken for granted; they are dependent on resilient ecological functioning,

To sustain these benefits into the future, the two USDA agencies partnered with over 40 other natural resource organizations to implement over 700 new conservation practices on 22,000 acres of private land while improving, obliterating, closing, or relocating existing roads; eradicating non-native invasive plants; introducing prescribed burning to restore the shortleaf pine-bluestem grass forest communities; and planting and seeding native plants on 10,000 acres of glades and woodlands. Additionally, the projects used local contracts to provide economic development opportunities for 14 chronically impoverished nearby counties.

Learn more about the Western Arkansas Woodland Restoration project

 

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