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DeSoto Sustainable Forest Collaborative Considered for Federal Investment

DeSoto Sustainable Forest Collaborative Considered for Federal Investment

People in Southeast Mississippi stand to benefit from a successful and relatively new federal jobs and forest health program, if selected by a federal advisory board and Congress fully funds the bipartisan program. The effort, called the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP), was created by Congress in 2009 to foster collaborative, science-based restoration in National Forests around the country.  

The local project under review for investment, the DeSoto Sustainable Forest Collaborative, would create jobs, improve forest health, enhance water quality, and benefit wildlife habitat in Southeastern Mississippi.  

The DeSoto Sustainable Forest Collabrative has received support from a broad coalition of local partners, from businesses to conservationists. 

 “The DeSoto National Forest is critical to the health of Mississippi’s citizens and its economy. I support legislation and efforts to protect and improve Longleaf pine forest in the region and beyond, for current and future generations,” said Dick Molpus- President of Molpus Woodlands Group. 

“We need to improve the health of America’s forests because they are in trouble, and the DeSoto Sustainable Forest Collaborative is part of the cure for our area,” agreed Judy Steckler, Director of the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain, which also supports the DeSoto project. “A century of too many pests/ fire suppression/ climate change and inappropriate development have taken their toll on the water, wildlife, and recreation benefits forests provide us. The thinning and controlled burns and other restoration work supported by DeSoto project will help return them to their historically healthy condition.” 

The broad coalition supporting this local project is mirrored by bipartisan support in Washington— both the Senate and House budgets for 2012 have proposed funding CFLRP at the $30 million level. Currently in the Senate a “Dear Colleague” letter is being circulated for increasing that level of support to $40 million, as co-sponsored by Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Republican Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch of Idaho.  

“The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program is bringing communities from around the country together to create jobs, to restore forest and watershed health, and to reduce the costs of wildfire suppression at impressive scales,” offered Senator Bingaman. “The program and its many supporters are charting a successful path forward for National Forest management.” 

These first-year CFLRP benefits were shared in a new annual report on the program, which detailed results and described 2011 applicant projects (including DeSoto Sustainable Forest Collaborative).  

First-year results from the 10 invested CFLRP sites include:

•         Created and maintained 1,550 jobs;

•         Produced 107 million board feet of timber;

•         Generated nearly $59 million of labor income;

•         Removed fuel for destructive mega-fires on 90,000 acres near communities;

•         Reduced mega-fire on an additional 64,000 acres;

•         Improved 66,000 acres of wildlife habitat;

•         Restored 28 miles of fish habitat;

•         Enhanced clean water supplies by remediating 163 miles of eroding roads. 

The annual report was produced by the CFLRP Coalition, which is comprised of 144 member organizations that includes private businesses, communities, counties, tribes, water suppliers, associations, and non-governmental organizations. 

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