The U.S. Forest Service will dedicate $40.6 million for 27 exceptional land acquisition projects in 15 states that will help safeguard clean water, provide recreational access, preserve wildlife habitat, enhance scenic vistas and protect historic and wilderness areas.
Projects funded are in Alaska, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah and Washington. Projects range from protecting nationally significant lands from threat of residential development in North Carolina to help pave the way to help purchase the largest single parcel of privately held land with the Kootznoowoo Wilderness on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska.
"In keeping with the Obama Administration's America's Great Outdoors conservation initiative, USDA is committed to conserving and restoring our forests and bringing jobs to rural America," said Vilsack. "Through our partnerships with states, communities, tribes and others, it is vital that we step up our efforts to safeguard our country's natural resources."
"The pristine wildernesses, flowing waters and majestic vistas help define what makes this country great," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "These projects will help ensure a long future of quality open space for those hunters and anglers, hikers, campers and other nature lovers who enjoy America's great outdoors. The funding will also reduce administrative costs and provide us increased flexibility in how we restore lands across the country."
The money is made available through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, created by Congress in 1964 to provide funding to federal, state and local governments to purchase land, water and wetlands. The fund receives the majority of its money through royalty payments from offshore oil and gas revenues to mitigate the environmental impacts of those activities. Those funds also are augmented by additional money or in-kind services of a variety of partnerships.
Lands are purchased from willing sellers at fair-market value or through partial or outright donations of property. Landowners may also sell or donate easements on their property that restrict commercial development while keeping the land in private ownership.
The fund supports many goals set out in President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative, including the need to support locally-led efforts to protect and renew rivers and other waters; conserve and restore national parks, wildlife refuges and other federal lands and waters; and enhance recreational access and opportunities.
The projects were selected through a competitive process based on ability to safeguard watersheds, provide recreational access, restore healthy forests, mitigate climate change, defend communities from wildfire, create management efficiency, and reconnect fragmented landscapes and ecosystems.
The following new projects are approved for funding in 2012. To see applications for funding on each project, visit the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
- Cube Cove /Admiralty National Monument, Tongass National Forest: With the exception of limited shoreline on Cube Cove, the land is entirely surrounded by Admiralty National Monument/Kootznoowoo Wilderness. Three main watersheds are within the parcel and the acquisition will result in preservation or restoration of the unique coastal island ecosystem in perpetuity. $500,000
- Misty Fiords National Monument, Tongass National Forest: The monument is a national showcase of pristine lands and waters where the scenery, wildlife and recreation opportunities are abundant. The acquisition will reduce private land ownership within the wilderness and avoid private development that would conflict with wilderness values. $500,000
- Hurdygurdy, Six Rivers National Forest: The land on the Smith River National Recreation Area covers portions of three streams, including the Hurdygurdy, a designated as Wild and Scenic River that serves as refuge and vital spawning habitat for Coho and Chinook salmon and steelhead and coastal cutthroat trout. The acquisition will help restore and improve fish and wildlife habitats and development of public recreational access and dispersed recreation sites. $1 million
- Deer & Mill Creek, Lassen National Forest: The parcel of land will help complete a continuous protected fish and wildlife habitat area along about 30 miles of Deer Creek, one of the most productive salmon-producing streams in the Sacramento River system. As a dam-free stream with little development, Deer Creek has breathtaking scenery and abundant fish and wildlife. $1.5 million
- Eldorado Meadows, Eldorado National Forest: This project is part of the Sierra Nevada Checkerboard Initiative, a large ongoing effort to address land ownership patterns intermingled with private and public land. The funds will be used to help leverage non-federal funds from threat of private land sale and development. $1.5 million
- Stony Creek Consolidation, Shasta-Trinity National Forest: This parcel, within the congressionally designated Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area, is a donut hole in the midst of Forest Service recreation facilities on the shore of Lake Shasta and is threatened with incompatible subdivision and development. Acquisition will preserve the high quality visual character of this key recreation area while preventing lakeshore degradation and habitat fragmentation. $800,000
- Fleming Ranch, San Bernardino National Forest: Will conserve and enhance resources in the San Jacinto Mountains in part by implementing fire and biofuels management that would prevent emissions release, maintain sequestration in forests, and through restoration practices advance carbon migration. $1.5 million
- Sierra Nevada Inholdings, Tahoe and Eldorado National Forests: Will leverage a large land donation to purchase vital areas threatened by incompatible development. This acquisition will preserve an ancient petroglyph, as well as conserve meadows, wetlands and riparian areas at the headwaters of the American and Yoba rivers. $2 million
- Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, multiple national forests: The area was one of first two congressionally designated national scenic trials. The acquisition will help protect critical portions of the 2650 mile trail system that stretches from Mexico into Canada. The land will help protect key wildlife corridors that support the migration of the grey wolf, grizzly bear, elk, deer, coyote and moose as well as protecting the trail from encroaching development. $1 million
- Little Echo Lake, Arapaho National Forest: The acquisition will forever preserve a spectacular mountain lake and surrounding land adjacent to the 17,000-acre James Peak Wilderness Area and concurrently protect Denver's water supply. Adding the parcel to the national forest also will enhance recreational opportunities by providing legal access into the wilderness area and nearby Continental Divide Trail. The area is home to the federally threatened Canada lynx as well as the Boreal toad and wolverine which are designated by the Forest Service as sensitive species. $950,000
- Ophir Valley, Uncompahgre National Forest: The acquisition will protect breathtaking mountain vistas, including a portion of the Howards Fork drainage, a narrow steep valley roughly 2,500 feet below the top of Ophir Pass, and areas that link Telluride to Silverthorne. Recreational access for hunting and four-wheel drives, fishing rock climbing, sightseeing, camping, hiking and horseback riding will be significantly enhanced. $1.5 million
- Georgia Mountains and Rivers, Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest: Georgia's national forests are near population centers numbering in the millions, creating tremendous pressures for clean water and recreation on the nearby public lands. These acquisitions focus on providing recreation opportunities and protecting watershed and wetlands in an area where the viability and availability of clean, abundant water is critical. $2 million
- Salmon-Selway Initiative Area, Salmon-Challis and Sawtooth National Forests: The Morgan Ranch is an old homestead that lies upstream from the Middle Fork of the Salmon River within the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area. The 18 miles of Sulphur Creek, a tributary of the Middle Fork, provides significant spawning and rearing habitat for three species of fish listed under the Endangered Species Act: Chinook salmon, steelhead trout and bull trout. $3.5 million
- Upper Lochsa, Clearwater National Forest: The parcel includes habitat for threatened steelhead and bull trout, denning and foraging habitat for Canada lynx, critical elk winter range and portions of the Nez Perce National Historic Trail. The Nez Perce Tribe has contributed more than $7 million in non-federal monies toward aquatic habitat restoration in the Upper Lochsa drainage area and proposes to continue funding of roughly $1 million per year. $1 million
- Hoosier National Forest: This project is focused on the protection of the Lost River, a subterranean river that is associated with the second largest cave system in the State. The river supports a unique ecosystem that has been found to contain at least 15 globally-imperiled subterranean species. Acquisition of this parcel will protect several sinkhole entrances to the Lost River cave system. $466,000
- Great Lakes/Great Lands, Hiawatha and Ottawa National Forests: This acquisition will directly support the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by protecting watershed health and integrity in the Great Lakes region. The project will also help ensure the conservation of the Sturgeon Wild & Scenic River and associated wetlands. These parcels provide travel connectivity for the endangered Eastern Gray Wolf and the threatened Canadian Lynx as well as habitat for other sensitive and endangered species. $640,000
- Missouri Ozarks, Mark Twain National Forest: The land, which include prime riparian river frontage on the Current River, will help connect existing national forest lands to the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Consolidating the lands will help protect watershed quality and provide maximum benefit for both resident and migratory wildlife species. $990,000
- Legacy Completion, Lolo and Flathead National Forests: The project will enhance resource management within and adjacent to the Crown of the Continent by protecting healthy watersheds, diverse habitats for threatened and endangered species, and open space on a landscape-scale and public access to high quality recreation opportunities. This parcel is a part of the Montana Legacy project, one of the most ambitious conservation projects in modern Forest Service history and includes a 111,740 acre donation from conservation partners. $2 million
- Tenderfoot Part I, Lewis and Clark National Forest: The Tenderfoot watershed in Central Montana is remarkably diverse spanning areas from 3,200 feet elevations sub-alpine mountains to grass meadows and riparian areas. The acquisition parcels will provide high quality water and fisheries habitat for west slope cutthroat trout, and habitat for elk, moose, deer and many other wildlife species. The land offers incredible scenic views and extraordinary recreation opportunities, especially for anglers and hunters. $2 million
- Miranda Canyon Phase I, Carson National Forest: The land offers breathtaking views from its numerous ridges and peaks of the Rio Grande Gorge to the west and Wheeler Peak to the north. Historical features include the Camino Real Trail, unique geologic features such as a small volcano and 1.7 billion-year-old rock outcrops that rival the age of rocks found at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Hunting, sightseeing, camping, hiking, interpretation and horseback riding will be enhanced. $3,442,000
- North Carolina Threatened Treasures, National Forests in North Carolina: Nationally, land managed by the National Forests in North Carolina rank second in recreation visits but are among the most vulnerable to adjacent commercial and residential development. Forest fragmentation is a major issue and the acquisition will help to ensure recreation access, ecological integrity and watershed values on adjacent federal lands and for downstream resources. $1 million
- Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest: One of America's most treasured landscapes, Hell's Canyon is renowned for its natural, historical, archaeological and recreational values. The properties will serve as public gateways to thousands of acres of public lands and are home to 14 key fish and wildlife species, including Oregon's largest Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep herd. The land also contains habitat for rare plants and at-risk bird species including the yellow breasted chat, mountain quail, Lewis' woodpecker and willow flycatcher. $1,417,500
- Pacific North West Streams, multiple national forests: Lands selected for acquisition include key habitat for at-risk fish stocks. Immediate public benefits will be secured public access, increased recreation opportunities and more efficient long-term management and restoration of key stream, riparian areas, tidal marsh and estuary needed for bird and wildlife recovery. $1.1 million
- Rocky Fork, Cherokee National Forest: This acquisition will provide protection for what was recently one of the largest contiguous tracts of private forest land in the East. The Forest Service identified Rocky Fork as a "national priority" because of its high natural resource values and recreational opportunities including a portion of the Appalachian Trail, blue-ribbon trout fishing, and a variety of recreational activities such as wildlife watching, rock climbing and hunting. $5 million
- Bonneville Shoreline Trail, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest: This parcel is becoming one of the last undeveloped areas on the Wasatch Front for traditional summer/winter range for deer and elk. Several parcels have historical nesting habitats for peregrine falcon, a sensitive species. Unique features, such as waterfalls and montane riparian areas add to the biological and recreational value of the land. $600,000
- Uinta-Wasatch-Cache, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest: The land has historic significance because it once supported construction of the Trans-Continental Railroad across the U.S. as well as the early fur trapping and logging industries. The acquisition offers a rare opportunity to enhance public access and sustain recreational opportunities, protect wildlife and fish habitat and limit the spread of development. $1.2 million
- Washington Cascade Ecosystem, Wenatchee National Forest: The acquisition is part of a larger, landscape-scale effort to resolve the fragmented land ownership pattern blanketing Washington's Central Cascades. Threading through the area are several significant north-south wildlife corridors that need to be protected and restored to preserve healthy wildlife populations. $1.5 million