The Forest Service has established a non-profit fund to help local groups restore areas damaged by wildfires. The Wildfire Recovery Fund will help work crews to restore and protect waterways, stabilize soils to prevent mudslides and plant new vegetation.
“Our work isn’t over when we’ve put the fire out,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “If restoration efforts aren’t underway before the next big storm hits, critical drinking water supplies may be endangered and overall forest health compromised for years to come. When you consider that one in five Americans get their drinking water from a National Forest, it is all the more important to get to work once the fire is out.”
“In recent years we have experienced increasing levels of catastrophic fire that have brought about dramatic changes, especially in the American West,” said Bill Possiel, president of the National Forest Foundation. “Our goals are ambitious but our purpose is clear. Our National Forests need our help and together we can ensure that these amazing places are healthy so that future generations can enjoy their many benefits.”
Recovery efforts are vital to ensure that water flowing from burned forests is clean and free of ash, mud and other contaminants. The loss of ground cover such as grasses, shrubs and moss dramatically increases the possibility of mudslides.
In most cases, only a portion of the burned area is actually treated. Severely burned areas, very steep slopes, places where water runoff will be excessive, fragile slopes above homes, businesses, municipal water supplies and other valuable facilities are focus areas.
Some of the primary stabilization techniques used include reseeding of ground cover with quick-growing or native species, mulching with straw or chipped wood, construction of straw, rock or log dams in small tributaries and placement of logs to catch sediment on hill slopes. Work crews might also need to modify road and trail drainage mechanisms by installing debris traps, modifying or removing culverts to allow drainage to flow freely, adding additional drainage dips and constructing emergency spillways to keep roads and bridges from washing out during floods.
The Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Forest Service lands 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 $27 billion per year.
Congress established the National Forest Foundation in 1991. Through community-based strategies and public-private partnerships, the NFF enhances wildlife habitat, revitalizes wildfire-damaged landscapes, restores watersheds and improves recreational resources. Learn more at www.nationalforests.org or www.friendsoftheforest.org.