NRCS and Partners Host Watershed Recovery Recognition Event
U.S. Congressman Jerry Lewis, USDA, and state and local officials reaffirmed their commitment to improving forest health and wildfire safety in Southern California
CRESTLINE, Calif., April 20, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), along with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and San Bernardino, San Diego and Riverside counties hosted a recognition event today, in Crestline, commemorating six years worth of work reducing the threat of wildfire, improving forest health and protecting residents in Southern California.
“Thanks to the hard work and cooperation between San Bernardino County, NRCS, the Forest Service and the State, we have managed to directly protect more than 22,000 property owners in our mountains over the past seven years, with thousands more benefiting from the fabulous efforts to reduce the danger of wildfire,” said Congressman Jerry Lewis, who was keynote speaker at the event and has represented the area throughout his career. “With more than a million dead and dying trees no longer threatening mountain families, this is a success story that would have been hard to believe after the terrible fires of 2003.”
This work was funded through a 2004 Congressional appropriation of $150 million to remove dead, dying and diseased trees in San Bernardino, San Diego and Riverside counties to help fire crews more safely and effectively fight wildfires. More than 60,000 acres were treated and the area was rehabilitated to prevent mud and debris flows, to protect infrastructure of surrounding cities and urban communities. While improving forest health will continue long into the future, this event commemorates the important partnership efforts taken to date.
“The partners at all levels of government brought unique contributions to this effort and they were critical to the success of this work,” said Ann Mills, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. “In addition, this federal funding was reinvested into these local communities to benefit all sectors of the economy, including food service, tourism, wood mills and real estate.”
The effectiveness of this work was tested during the 2007 wildfire season, and in regards to the Grass Valley Fire, which occurred in the mountains of the San Bernardino National Forest – approximately 60 miles east of Los Angeles, a USFS study found significant benefits regarding reducing the spread rate of the fire and allowed fire crews ample time and space to protect structures and put the fire out.
Government-funded efforts remain ongoing through a partnership agreement between NRCS, USFS and San Bernardino County, and funded by a USFS grant.
“We cannot continue to depend on federal help and funding. We, as landowners, must do our part to reduce wildfire threats around our houses and within our communities,” said Jeff Langdon, a forest landowner and small farmer in Crestline. Langdon spoke at the event about the importance of this work, landowner involvement in forest health, and community members working together to prevent the start and spread of wildfires.
SOURCE USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service