Posts tagged with "Tom Vilsack"

Artwork by Kaelen of 360 Magazine for use by 360 Magazine

USDA Awards Expansion Grants

USDA Awards $15 Million in Grants to Expand Wood Products, Wood Energy Markets and Community Forests

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today awarded more than $15 million to fund grant proposals to develop and expand the use of wood products, strengthen emerging wood energy markets and protect community forests. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement in Colorado today while visiting prescribed fire and wildfire recovery areas adjacent to the Roosevelt National Forest Northern Colorado Front Range landscape.

The grant funding, delivered through USDA Forest Service programs, will support 60 projects that cover a diverse range of activities from the development of affordable housing to expanding markets for mass timber, biochar, wood energy and other emerging wood products. The grants also include funds to help tribes, local governments and qualified non-profit organizations permanently conserve working forests that benefit communities.

Forest Service awards will leverage an additional $30 million in matching and partner funds bringing the totals well above $45 million.

“To manage wildfire and address climate, we need to manage our forests. Today’s investments underpin USDA’s commitment to address the climate crisis with a market-based approach that begins to move us toward a clean energy economy, led by production of renewable fuel and energy and biobased products grown and manufactured here in the U.S.,” said Vilsack. “The American Jobs Plan and USDA’s budget request for 2022 make sure the Forest Service can prioritize forest management and restoration.”

“We are placing emphasis on assisting wood energy facilities in economically challenged areas to retool or add advanced technology to replace systems that are inefficient or fueled by fossil fuels.” said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “The grants will also expand markets for cross-laminated timber in commercial and multi-family housing, which supports the important connection to healthy forests and manufacturing in rural communities.”

Wood Innovations Grants

Forest Service Wood Innovations Grant program awards for fiscal year 2021 include $8.9 million for 44 projects across 23 states and Puerto Rico. Twenty-one of the projects focus on mass timber and cross-laminated timber. These projects will support critical needs for expanding markets and species options (hemlock, ponderosa pine, white fir), improve structural performance, increase education and outreach, and promote design and construction of highly visible buildings.

Seven of the projects will focus on developing affordable housing using mass timber as a major building component to support equity, economic opportunity, and climate change priorities. Additional projects focus on developing markets for emerging wood products like biochar and cellulose nanomaterials, and support installation of new wood energy systems. A complete list of Wood Innovations Grant recipients is available now on the Forest Service website.

Community Wood Grants

Forest Service Community Wood Grant program awards for fiscal year 2021 include $2.1 million to support six shovel-ready projects in six states. Initiated in the 2018 Farm Bill, the grant program helps to fund the costs of installing wood energy systems and building innovative wood product facilities in rural communities nationwide. Awardees will use locally sourced wood to reduce energy costs and fossil fuel use while supporting sustainable forest management. 

These grants also support innovative wood products manufacturing facilities that make products like building components and other products made from low-value or low-quality wood.

Two of the Community Wood Grants are awarded to DCI Furniture, Inc. in New Hampshire and Arizona Log & Timber Works, LLC in Arizona. DCI Furniture will use the funds to install a new wood boiler to generate heat and electricity at a furniture plant. Arizona Log & Timber Words will use the funds to build a biochar plant, firewood kiln, and pole peeler to expand a forest products facility. A complete list of Community Wood Grant recipients is available now on the Forest Service website.

Community Forest Grants

Forest Service Community Forest Program awards for fiscal year 2021 include $4 million to support 10 projects across nine states. The grants include financial assistance to local governments, Indian tribes, and qualified nonprofit organizations to create, expand and enhance community owned and community managed forests. Project work will help communities acquire and conserve forests that provide public access and recreational opportunities, protect vital water supplies and wildlife habitat, serve as demonstration sites for private forest landowners, and provide economic benefits from timber and non-timber products.

Since 2012, the program has supported 88 community-driven projects across 25 states and territories and permanently conserved more than 24,000 acres.

Visit the Forest Service website for a complete list of projects and organizations receiving grants under the Community Forests Program.

Agriculture illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

USDA Announces Investment

USDA Announces $218 Million Investment in Land and Water Conservation

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the USDA Forest Service will invest more than $218 million to fund Great American Outdoors Act projects to conserve critical forest and wetland habitat, support rural economic recovery, and increase public access to national forests and grasslands.

Leveraging the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) provided by Congress, this investment will improve public access by funding strategic land acquisitions. Funds will also support work with state agencies to encourage private forest landowners to protect their land through conservation easements or land purchases.

“These investments reflect President Biden’s commitment to supporting locally-led conservation efforts from coast to coast and to honoring and building on the proud private land stewardship traditions of farmers, ranchers, and forest owners,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The investments will not only protect our natural heritage, but they will also create jobs, expand access to the outdoors, and help tackle climate change.”

The Forest Service administers two LWCF programs: The Forest Legacy Program and the Land Acquisition program. Together, these programs conserve critical and strategic lands across the nation’s forests on both private and public lands. The Forest Service will invest more than $94 million to fund 28 projects under the Forest Legacy Program and $123 million to fund Land Acquisition Program projects, including projects for recreation access and other needs.

Land Acquisition Program highlights include:

  • $6.4 million in FY 2021 to acquire 8,590 acres for the Lolo Trails Project in Montana. This project aims to mitigate the effects of climate change by providing the cold water that federally listed bull trout and other species need to sustain healthy populations in a warming climate.
  • $3.7 million to acquire 1,550 acres in the Yakima River Basin for the Washington Cascades Project. Supported by a wide coalition of public, private and non-profit partners, this project seeks to ensure a long-term water supply in the face of climate change.

Forest Legacy Program highlights include:

  • Protecting 12,500 acres of habitat, water and timber on the Ceylon Forest in Georgia. 2.5 million people depend on the Ceylon for drinking water that flows from and through the forest. As a working forest, the Ceylon supports a local wood-based economy that includes 121 mills, with a $1.69 million payroll impact. Once completed, the area will also become part of a much larger Wildlife Management Area and serve as an ideal hunting and fishing destination for sportsmen across the Southeast.
  • The East Grand-Weston in Maine builds on a century-old tradition of sustainable forestry and expands recreation opportunities over more than 4,300 acres. The property supports a thriving local recreation industry by protecting lands, waters and trails while also providing sustainable wood products to up to 15 mills. The property will remain in private hands while continuing to be managed for public benefits.
  • The second phase of the Kootenai Forestlands Conservation Project will permanently protect nearly 28,000 acres of land in northwest Montana. The project area belongs to the Stimson Lumber Company and contributes to the local economy while allowing free public access as a recreation destination for hunting, fishing, skiing, hiking, snowmobiling and more. The project will also protect the area from further residential development, reducing future firefighting costs by more than half.

Background

The Forest Service has been administering LWCF projects since 1964 along with the Department of the Interior. The fund supports Forest Service-led conservation projects including acquisition of critical non-federal lands within the boundaries of national forests and grasslands. Now, with full and permanent funding through the Dingell Act and the Great American Outdoors Act, the Forest Service is poised to strengthen its conservation program and provide greater recreation access to national forests and grasslands.

The agency worked with partners, considered multiple criteria and used established competitive processes to select projects for fiscal year 2021. During the review, the agency evaluated the environmental, social, and economic benefits of proposed projects and whether they contributed to other conservation initiatives. The Forest Service also considered local recreation access needs, the level of local support for strategic land acquisitions and how likely it would be for project areas to be converted to non-forest uses.

For more information on the Great American Outdoors Act and related projects, visit the website.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration under Secretary Vilsack, USDA is committed to transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit USDA.