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Editor’s note:  This report comes to us from the CALAVERAS ENTERPRISE.

The U.S. Forest Service is heralding its partnerships with individuals and communities to promote healthier forests.

It announced in April that 1.45 million acres of America’s forests and watersheds, an area larger than Delaware, are healthier as a result of partnerships formed to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

Stanislaus and Eldorado national forests have been doing their part to meet five-year goals by working with local groups and agencies in a program known as the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLR). The Cornerstone CFLR Project was awarded to the two forests in partnership with the Amador Calaveras Consensus Group in 2012. Forest health has improved as a result of this effort, the Forest Service said.

Some milestone accomplishments for the local Cornerstone CFLR Project over the past three years include:• Provided jobs to residents in economically disadvantaged, rural communities.

• Hired American Indians to restore cultural sites.

• Provided on-the-job training opportunities for workers.

• Reduced the risk of uncharacteristic fire that could harm people and property by reducing hazardous fuels on 3,441 acres in the wildland urban interface.

• Reduced fuels on 2,832 acres outside of the interface.

• Restored 1,760 acres of wildlife habitat.

• Improved watershed health on 1,053 acres.

• Treated noxious weeds on 381 acres.

• Involved diverse community members in project planning, implementation and monitoring.

• Attracted regional attention as a model for community forest collaboration.

Nationally, collaboration is also working. “CFLRP demonstrates that we can bring together forest industry, environmentalists, local communities and others to produce healthier forests while producing a sustainable timber supply for local mills,” said Robert Bonnie, agriculture undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment.

“Collaboratives expand Forest Service resources – generating over $76.1 million in matching funding from partners in the past five years, and with continued support we expect this number to grow over the next five years.”

On the local level, the Amador Calaveras Consensus Group (which includes the: Amador Fire Safe Council, Bureau of Land Management, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Calaveras Healthy Impact Products Solutions (CHIPS) group, forest-based businesses and landowners, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Foothill Conservancy, Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center, CalFire and others) has worked diligently to achieve on-the-ground results that are making a difference in the communities it serves.

“We’re grateful to everyone in the Amador-Calaveras Consensus Group who has worked so hard on the Cornerstone Project,” said Katherine Evatt, president of the Foothill Conservancy. “We truly appreciate our partnership with the U.S. Forest Service. Working to achieve consensus on challenging forest issues creates real, lasting solutions that benefit our communities, the economy and our natural environment.”

“Though more work still needs to be completed in upcoming years,” said Teresa McClung, Calaveras District ranger for the Stanislaus National Forest, “it’s good for us to celebrate the milestones we have accomplished thus far as a collaborative group. We are much more effective at improving the health of our forests and our communities when we all work together.”

“A great example of the benefits of working collaboratively is how the Cornerstone partners have played a role in the Power Fire Reforestation Environmental Impact Statement,” added Rick Hopson, Amador District ranger for the Eldorado National Forest. “The group came up with an alternative that both meets the purpose of the project and addresses public concerns. This kind of involvement leads to better decisions about work on public lands.”

More information on the five-year report along with links to Cornerstone fact sheets can be found at: fs.fed.us/restoration/CFLRP/index.shtml.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.

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