Shared stewardship to support forest’s health

Canyons project to address wildfire, watersheds

The health of the Manti-La Sal National Forest will get a boost this year after the U.S. Forest Service and State of Utah teamed up on a shared stewardship agreement, which calls for a $20 million investment over the next four years “to address wildfire, threats to communities and protecting watersheds,” according to a statement emailed by U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

The La Sal work – dubbed the Canyons project – calls for improving the watershed, including wildland urban interface and municipal watersheds by removing hazardous fuels and reducing the probability of uncharacteristic wildfire through the removal of standing and downed dead Engelmann spruce.

The second of two projects for 2019 is the Upper Provo River project in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, according to the announcement.

“This agreement strengthens the already strong partnership between the Forest Service and the State of Utah,” said Perdue. “Through shared stewardship, Utah and the Forest Service are working together to identify landscape-scale priorities and build capacity to improve forest conditions.”

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert noted, “This influx of resources allows the state and USDA Forest Service to begin immediately to address the state’s most critical forest and watershed needs. By working collaboratively with our federal partners and under the shared stewardship agreement we can quickly respond to the most pressing issues faced by land managers.”

First, the Forest Service will expedite project level environmental review that will enable the agency to efficiently complete additional restoration work in priority areas. Second, the state and Forest Service will increase fire prevention education and outreach in an effort to reduce the number of human-caused fire starts. Third, the state and Forest Service will work to develop strategies to increase opportunities for small businesses in Utah.

The state’s Roadless Rule petition will remain pending while the state and Forest Service address the threat of unwanted fire to communities and watersheds through shared stewardship, officials said.