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Recovery Act is improving national forests

During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt called on the Forest Service for help.

Through the Civilian Conservation Corps, we engaged millions of unemployed citizens, helping to rebuild lives and provide a lasting service to the nation through fire control, reforestation, and early construction of roads, trails and facilities.

Last year, America faced the greatest economic downturn since the 1930s.

Last month marked the one year anniversary of the signing of the Recovery Act. And the Forest Service is once again putting Americans back to work in the cause of conservation.

The Forest Service is ideally situated to help. Many of the communities most affected by the economic hard times are located near national forests.

Our employees are woven into the community fabric; we know local needs, and we have the local capacity to provide training and employment. Projects chosen to use Recovery Act funds were specifically targeted to these economically distressed communities.

Millions of acres are in need of restoration work. Roads, bridges, buildings, and recreational facilities need repair.

Through Job Corps Conservation Centers and agreements with youth conservation organizations, we have been providing training opportunities and paychecks for those young men and women entering the work force for the first time.

Here in southeastern Ohio, the Recovery Act is putting men and women to work.

In 2009, the Forest Service signed a Recovery Act-funded Challenge Cost Share agreement with the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) to remove Autumn Olive, a non-native invasive shrub, from over 300 acres of grassland habitat on the Athens Ranger District of the Wayne National Forest in Ohio between July and September.

The equipment needed for this project is very expensive to purchase, so the Forest worked with the RGS to use their equipment to remove the autumn olive, a woody invasive species that had encroached into wildlife foraging and nesting habitat.

The Henslow’s sparrow, a small songbird that is declining throughout its range, will especially benefit from this activity. Likewise, more open habitat will help other species such as grouse, bobwhite, and turkey.

This is a great partnership for the Wayne and our local RGS chapter to bring in regional equipment for habitat improvement in southeast Ohio,” said Art Martin, local Ruffed Grouse Society member and forestry technician.”

The win-win situation benefits the Forest Service by mechanically reducing hazardous fuels and returning the landscape to its desired condition.

The RGS benefits by promoting conditions suitable for ruffed grouse, American woodcock, and related wildlife to sustain Ohio’s sport hunting tradition and outdoor heritage.

Creating these job opportunities gives our communities the chance to participate in developing sustainability technologies and to accomplish some of our highest priority stewardship work on public and state and private lands.

Across the nation, Forest Service Recovery Act projects are already helping forests and grasslands adapt to climate change, produce cleaner and more abundant water, and improving forest resiliency and biological diversity. We are promoting alternative, clean energy sources to lessen our dependence on foreign oil.

And by putting people to work we are contributing to stronger communities adjacent to our public lands and providing safe access to the forests and grasslands for their use and enjoyment by people of all abilities.

For more information, please go to our Recovery Act website: http://fs.usda.gov/recovery

Kent Connaughton is the regional forester for the USDA Forest Service, Eastern Region.