USA – The United States Forest Service recently announced its latest innovation grants awarded to 34 proposed projects in 20 states.
The grants are intended to support and promote the use of forest products, while simultaneously improving forest health and reducing the severity of wildland fires.
The recipients are a variety of public and private organizations, who plan to use the money to take care of the forests and promote the sustainable use of wood products.
The projects will include clearing excessive trees and brush as well as finding a use and a market for the resulting materials.
Interim Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen issued a statement, saying the grants will help to promote a healthier and more resilient forest. The statement also said the grants will aid in reducing the risk of wildfires.
This comes after the most expensive fire season on record. In 2017, the Forest Service alone spent $2.4 billion fighting wildland fires. According to the agency, this year’s season is also expected to be challenging.
Over many decades, the focus on fire suppression and the lack of forest management has led to dangerous build-up of trees and brush, which would have been burned off and thinned by natural fires in the past. The overcrowding is a significant factor in the massive tree die-offs in the west, where the trees were weakened due to drought over the last several years.
“One of the things that’s really driving the stress in the forest that we’ve currently got, is the absence of fire, which has created all sorts of small trees growing into the forest, increasing the density of the forest and because of that increase in density, there’s a real high demand on the limited resources in the ecosystem, which is water,” said Malcolm North, research ecologist for the U.S. Forest Service.
The trend of skyrocketing costs and increasing threats to public safety are prompting calls for a different approach. The Forest Service is hoping to turn the trend around and the grants may play an important role.
With the help of today’s science-based management techniques and modern innovations, America’s forests can be restored to health and provide renewable resources for many years to come.